“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” - Helen Keller
Gone are the days when our private colleges and universities, those with small endowments and tuition dependent, can afford to “go it alone.” We need to consider how we can reconfigure our operations to leverage and pool our unique resources with other mission-driven organizations.
First, let’s consider “mission-driven” in the narrowest sense. Certainly, colleges that belong to the same religion and religious orders (Nazarenes, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) might be considered natural alliance candidates, but there have been few instances of maximizing their collaborative potential. Familial competition and protectiveness tend to block cooperation.
Partnering with dissimilar entities sometimes can be easier, complementary, and even more productive. Examples that I have been part of abound: University of St. Francis with Fed Ex.; Regis University with Coors, IBM, National University Galway, Ana G Mendez (Puerto Rico). I am also aware of Southern New Hampshire and Walmart. Some of these relationships may last only a handful of years, but both entities will have learned much from one another.
Consider partnerships with trade schools. As a model, Lewis University successfully combines their aviation maintenance two-year program with core and business courses for a Bachelor of Science degree. Lewis also had a strong alliance with Chicago area police departments for the Social Justice program. St. Francis (Joliet) was a pioneer in “upside down” degree completion.
Finally, consortia arrangements like the Online Consortium of Independent Colleges and Universities (OCICU) and library consortia enable smaller schools to compete with resource-rich institutions. It is estimated that more than 125 consortia are now in operation across the country. Why not consider developing a consortium with one or more other colleges?
Our smaller private colleges and universities should be able to function better, more efficiently, and quicker that our public counterparts. Unfortunately, most of the impediments we face are internal. Until we shift our thinking from vertical to lateral, our colleges will face tough times.
Tough times can also be fertile ground for creating new ways to do things.
"No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you're playing a solo game, you'll always lose out to a team." - Reid Hoffman