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Four Key Areas of the Business Model

The Journey focuses on four topics that colleges and universities must discuss; it does not provide solutions, as the solutions will be as unique as the institution and must reflect its collective thinking about how best to serve its students and community.

1. Mission

Colleges and universities must be mission-centered as they undertake transformation.

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2. Structure

An institution’s structure is intra- and inter-organizational.

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3. Strenghts

“Play to your strength” is good advice for colleges and universities, particularly if strengths adapt to changing needs.

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4. Resources

Resources supply the means for colleges and universities to attain their missions.

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How to Begin?

One way to start the journey is to print out the sets of questions by beginning with the questions about mission. Then distribute copies to constituents and ask them to rank the questions as “Critical,” “Important,” or “Irrelevant.”

Those ranked “Critical” should be the ones that need to be answered for the institution to move forward. They may be hot button issues that have previously been avoided, or they may reflect aspects of the institution have been taken for granted and, hence, assumed to be unchangeable or immovable.

Questions assessed as “Important” should include those whose answers will impact specific directions and may reflect activities already underway.

“Irrelevant” include both those that touch on parameters such as religious affiliation that may not apply to the institution, as well as those whose answers will have little bearing on the actions to be taken.

Ensuing discussion should focus on sharing of constituent rankings and perspectives to gain consensus on the questions to be explored further within the group and with other stakeholders in the college or university’s future.

At the end of the Journey, the institution should have identified the dimensions of its economic model that are non-negotiable and those that it will focus on to transform itself, having answered the “What Are We?” and “What Should We Be?” questions. Then the critical work of development and implementation of strategy begin.

Ideally, this work will be integrated with other assessment and planning work the institution is engaged in such as program review, strategic planning and accreditation self-study. As depicted, the process will be iterative; given the rapid pace of change in the environment external to higher education, colleges and universities will need to regularly review their economic model and adjust to current and pending changes. The Journey’s guidance offers suggestions about how college and university leaders can set the stage for change, and provides metrics that they can use to monitor and evaluate progress.

We’ve identified key strategic questions related to our college or university’s economic model, now what?

Taking the Next Steps

Related Content

The Economic Models Project Journey

The Economic Models Project Journey is a tool to assist chief business officers and other college and university leaders in engaging in the critical, and sometimes difficult, discussions at their institutions about their current and future economic models.


The Journey's guidance offers suggestions about how college and university leaders can set the stage for change, and provides metrics that they can use to monitor and evaluate progress.

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Explore selection of articles, books, podcasts, reports, research papers, and toolkits.