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Is Your Higher Education Institution Ready for Change?

Be ready for the changes your institution needs with the higher education consulting practice at FORVIS.
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Change Is the Only Constant

Shifting demographics, a seemingly shrinking value proposition, and very real limits on institutional trust have challenged the higher education industry, perhaps more than ever. Solutions to these problems will be complex, especially when the runway feels relatively short (just a few years), and the consequences are potentially devastating (institutional closures). However, these conditions have produced a near-mandate for an industrywide paradigm shift. Those surveyed for the FORVIS 2024 Annual Higher Education Outlook echoed this sentiment, with 70% indicating that the economic model, programming, and other operations need fundamental changes.

Despite consensus on the need for change, industry experts are skeptical that higher education is ready for the kind of innovation and nimbleness needed to sustain some of our more vulnerable institutions for the long term. The impediments to change are many. For example, it may feel easier to maintain the status quo rather than implement drastic changes. Various areas of your institution may have differed on competing priorities. Along with that, the people functioning in these different areas may not be used to working toward an integrated approach due to years of operating in silos. We assert that today’s colleges and universities need more than “typical” internal changes like tuition resets or discounts, adjunct reliance, and course scheduling efficiency.

Moose on the Table

Therefore, we apply one of our firm’s most sacred values—we “put the moose on the table.” This means we have the necessary and challenging conversations with decision makers. We work with our clients to help them find the right strategies. Instead of eliminating tenure, we may suggest that clients consider other options while they right their financial ship. Instead of a reduction in force, we may show clients how their institution compares to other similarly sized institutions in their region. We also work to train our clients so that all those who share in governance (boards, faculty, etc.) also share responsibility for understanding their institution’s financial position and their role in improving it. While putting the moose on the table is uncomfortable, it means that we can’t ignore what is right in front of us.

Focus for 2024

We want our clients to succeed because we recognize the value that every institution brings to the collective future. Here are a few things we think that change-ready higher education leaders should focus on for 2024:

  1. Be ready to put the moose on the table. The higher education consultants at FORVIS suggest that you equip your constituents with data that clearly outlines the realities for your institution. This means having strong models to explore the economics of your academic programs and developing a regular system to evaluate and optimize your academic operations. Our Program Economic Analysis tool helps you visualize your data and provides insights into which programs are making money and which aren’t. FORVIS has other tools to support your data analytics needs to help assess opportunities for change.
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of vision! And don’t forget to develop a strategy to accomplish it. Vision and strategy will require consensus on your institution’s past, present, and future direction. Bring an unbiased, outside perspective to help uncover and unpack these elements if needed. Our strategic planning process is designed to help you make data-informed decisions while visioning a "culture of possible."
  3. If you’re ready for change, have a change management plan in place. Tools like Clarity® can help identify your institution’s most glaring obstacles to change and help you determine the best ways to overcome them.
  4. Click the "Let's Connect" button below if you'd like us to give a complimentary customized presentation about the 2024 Annual Higher Education Outlook to your board or cabinet. This can be a great way to start the conversation with the change makers on your campus.

How FORVIS Can Help

At FORVIS, our higher education consulting practice is comprised of professionals whose careers were built in or adjacent to higher education. Our team includes board members, former faculty members, internal auditors, and finance officers. We understand the historical contributions of tenure and shared governance to the industry, and we work with our clients to develop systems and structures that respect and maintain these cultural priorities. We value our clients’ reputations and keep that mission and rigor in mind during our engagements. If you are ready to make a change, reach out to a higher education consulting practice professional at FORVIS.

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Fill out the form to request a complimentary customized presentation.

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