Strategic Planning in Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

Abstract

Like any business, colleges and universities must also use strategic planning in order to grow and prosper. Strategic Planning is vital to the success of colleges and universities as it allows the institution to analyze the present and forecast the future in order to create and sustain competitive advantages. By planning ahead, colleges and universities can prepare for changing trends, new technology and changing demands. It is very important that colleges develop a proper planning method which includes effective analysis, prioritizing goals, setting objectives and implementation. Over the years colleges and universities have tried and tested various techniques for developing a comprehensive strategic plan. Colleges have learned from the techniques used by many business organizations to create the most effective plans. The plans chosen by colleges/universities often include the combination of the long-range planning model and the environmental scanning model to create an effective strategic planning process. The strategies need to change and a good plan must be visited on at least an annual basis. Suggestions of how colleges and universities can keep strategic plans in place in a time of stormy and tight economy.

Strategic Planning: Planning for Change

Demographics and economics

Many changes in the external environment have created a necessity for institutions of higher education to prepare their own plan for assessing and adapting to change. For instance, in looking at recent trends in higher education, income disparities are the most cited barrier to access and graduation from an institute of higher learning (inside Higher Ed, 2007). David Sawicki's research indicated that many universities are engaged in strategic planning "A natural part of that process for a college that contains architecture and planning is the reconsideration of the administrative structure and the respective roles of each within the university. As part of such an exercise, they reevaluated the rationale for locating planning and architecture in the same unit" (Sawicki, 1992). With greater economic woes being forecast for the foreseeable future, what can colleges do to attract and retain a growing population of low-income students?

At first blush, it seems as though there is no best answer to the above-referenced problem. With tighter and tighter budget restrictions, coupled with decreasing federal and state funding for higher education, it seems as though it is an ever-increasing downward spiral that further perpetuates the already dire economic downturn. "Strategic planning is really going to need to change", Austin Peay State University, A tight economy, he adds, "forces an institution to focus on what is most important" (Chronicle of higher Education, 2008). Colleges will need to shorten their time horizons, with strategic plans lasting no more than three to five years. In coping with uncertain finances and budget cuts, the colleges /universities must revisit their plans often, experts say, and make difficult choices quickly, to stick to their priorities (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2008).

Unemployment rates across the nation are at an all-time high, nonfarm payroll employment fell sharply in January 2009 (-598,000) and the unemployment rate rose from 7.2 to 7.6 percent (Bureau of labor statistics, 2009). Virtually every American institution is facing major crises these days, from declining businesses to evaporating financial portfolios. To get out of these crises, authentic leaders must step forward and lead their organizations through them. The current crisis was not caused by subprime mortgages, credit default swaps, or failed economic policies. The root cause is failed leadership. New laws, regulations, and economic bailouts wont heal wounds created by leadership failures. They can only be solved by new leaders with the wisdom and skill to put their organizations on the right long-term course (Wall Street Journal, 2009). …