In the late 70’s and early 80’s, higher education faced an enrollment crisis similar to today’s, which was portrayed by pundits and researchers alike as a coming doomsday for small private colleges and universities. During the next decades these supposedly doomed colleges, led by the best governed and managed, found a way to make innovative changes that saved the industry: Providing complementary programming to a new market of adult learners and distance learning.
While Stevens Strategy deeply respects Clayton Christensen’s prescient intellect, and agrees the status quo will not obtain for very long in higher education, we disagree with him and the pundits and researchers who garner attention promoting a doomsday scenario as likely again now. We have argued for some time that the best governed and managed small private colleges and universities will avoid the current doomsday scenario by pursuing innovative—even disruptive—changes like utilizing technological instructional delivery systems on traditional residential campuses (preferred by 75% of traditionally-aged college students) and converting the roles of faculty to instructional software developers and student mentors or coaches. Such a strategy will bust the current conundrum of market pressures simultaneously pressing for increased costs and lower prices; it will slash the cost structure in higher education, allowing lower prices, while improving quality. Once there are a few successful examples, the rest of the small college and university cohort will soon follow.
Nonetheless, please read Michael Horn’s article, and tell us what you think.