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In some cases colleges and universities have too large an undergraduate student base given their current plant and faculty and the state budget woes may be limiting your enrollment. If that is your case, you need to focus on moving up.

In times of tight budgets and economic uncertainty, it may not be wise to grow, at least not in the rank of the undergraduates.

Most state regional institutions are funded with formulas, which weigh the state contribution per student credit hour by discipline and by degree level. If this is the case for your college or university, you earn three or four times as much per student credit hour at the master level than the baccalaureate level. And that doesn’t include the higher tuition graduate students pay.

In most cases you have hired faculty members who are oriented toward research and publications and you have set up a system of rewards for that in terms of rank and tenure. This faculty often prefers to teach graduate students, and more often still, are better suited to teaching them. In contrast 2-year colleges recruit master’s degree holders to fill most full-time teaching positions. Only rarely where there may an over supply of master-degreed faculty than available jobs, some 2-yr institutions begin to hire faculty with doctorates.

As a traditional university you hold the monopoly on graduate education in your partnership with the community college to which you have moved closer (if you followed my advice), and this is where you should strive to grow.

Making yourself a more effective graduate university magnifies the need to increase research efforts and external funding at your institution. Freed from undergraduate instruction, those faculty so inclined should be oriented and supported in their efforts to attract external research and development funding. This is neither simple nor easy and you will need a top professional to get you there.

Simultaneously, consideration needs to be given to the time variable related to attracting  graduate students who are full-time workers or who may be at a distance from your campus. You must accommodate their schedule and must respond to the distance issue by locating courses closer to the student or making them available anytime-anywhere online.

While we will live in a tight budget world for the forseeable future, spending for research and development has increased every year at a faster pace and in nearly every discipline than tuition and is projected to increase over the next decade.  There are countless opportunities for the well-qualified faculty, with professional support, to engage in research and joint agreements with private sector firms, government agencies and foreign governments.

Moving up produces a net benefit effect for your local community as well, as research activities make greater demands on local services and provide more employment than undergraduate students do.

Placing an emphasis on research and graduate programs will make better use of the faculty you hope to attract and/or you may already have. Between the replacement of your costs with indirect and direct research funding and the increased income per student graduate work brings, your institution will find itself in a better economic position, than if it decided to compete nationally to maintain the undergraduate student enrollment being lost to the 2-year institution.

Moving up can also be a golden opportunity to raise entrance requirements at the undergraduate level, helping the 2-year institution, which is becoming a 4-year college, to recruit from among those who will not qualify in your more selective environment. The major studies on “prestige” in higher education point to increasing entrance requirements as a key factor in improving the institutions’ standing in its community and among its peers. These students are also more likely to continue along to graduate work, perhaps at your institution.

But there’s one more move you can make to face the reality of 2-year colleges becoming 4-year colleges, that’s the move I call, “moving in”. More about it on the next post.

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