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EAB Strategic Advisory Services Extends Breadth and Depth of Coverage

August 21, 2023, By Tony Donatelli, Senior Director, Research Growth Strategy

The challenges facing higher education have become increasingly complex and interconnected over the past 15 years and in many cases require the collective action of multiple cabinet leaders and divisions to make progress. To support our partners in navigating both longstanding and emergent challenges, we pair rigorous research and deep knowledge of higher education with expert advisory services to holistically support each cabinet member as a functional leader and to serve the institutional leadership as a whole—we call this Strategic Advisory Services.

We aspire to be the trusted advisor and first place you turn when new opportunities or priorities emerge.

Dynamic Strategy

As competitive boundaries shift and student preferences evolve, the traditional model of higher ed strategic planning that results in a static, “sits on the shelf” document every five years is no longer sufficient. Instead, sophisticated leadership teams are pursuing (and boards are insisting on) a more active and market-responsive approach that EAB is calling Dynamic Strategy.

EAB has identified eight strategic competencies that every leadership team must develop to overcome the pitfalls of periodic, stakeholder-driven planning cycles.

Strategy formation

  • Build dynamic external market scenarios
  • Differentiate your student value proposition
  • Define 5-10 year vision and SMART performance targets
  • Prioritize strategic imperatives

Strategy implementation

  • Scope and model strategic initiatives
  • Align budget model and strategic priorities
  • Embed accountability in unit action plans and reporting
  • Create strategy explainers and social media message amplifiers

Take action today

Articulating a differentiated student value proposition to compete more effectively for an ever-shrinking pool of prospective students is critical for institutional success. However, many leadership teams struggle to define what makes their institution unique, let alone communicate a clear message that helps a prospective student choose their institution over another.

EAB has developed a series of workshops to help embed Dynamic Strategy within your institution and develop a unique student value proposition. Contact your Strategic Leader to learn more or schedule an expert consultation.

Blueprint for Growth

Blueprint for Growth is EAB’s signature, multi-year research initiative on the future of post-secondary enrollment, from undergraduate to graduate, domestic to international, and degree to alternative credentialing.

Growth and revenue generation are never guaranteed and with increasing skepticism of the value of higher education, a global pandemic, and shifting demographics—it’s more critical than ever to have a comprehensive understanding of the macro-economic conditions impacting your institution. To help our partners navigate their market landscape, EAB provides insight, data, and expert advice across three critical priorities:

  • Adult and graduate enrollment
  • Undergraduate enrollment
  • International enrollment

Take action today

Developing a plan to ensure long-term sustainability and growth typically starts by looking back to understand past performance and modeling future market dynamics to understand potential market size or demand constraints.

EAB’s Enrollment Analytics Portfolio evaluates your institution’s enrollment performance over the past decade, visualizes key drivers of growth and contraction, and quantifies the potential impact of three macroeconomic threats to your enrollment outcomes through 2035.

Contact your EAB Strategic Leader to request a sample of your Undergraduate Enrollment Outlook through 2035.

Professional and Adult Education

Adult learners are a unique audience whether they are served through traditional graduate programs, non-credit offerings, degree completion programs, or short-format credentials across on-campus, online, and hybrid modalities. Our professional and adult education research examines best practices in developing programs for and attracting adult learners to your institution.

To support professional, continuing, and online (PCO) education leaders, EAB organizes its research and insight around three critical priorities:

  • Developing market-responsive programs and services
  • Reaching professional and adult learners
  • Organizing for growth

Take action today

Understanding potential demand for new program offerings or how well your existing offerings are meeting market needs is a difficult and laborious process. Institutional research teams are often stretched too thin to provide the level of insight needed to effectively make decisions about new program offerings or provide the data needed to help PCO leaders understand how well previous investments are performing.

EAB’s Market Insights suite offers a large portfolio of custom, on-demand services, from helping you understand the market demand for a single program to conducting a holistic Program Portfolio Health Check. To learn more about EAB’s Market Insights suite reach out to your Strategic Leader and schedule an expert consultation.

People and Workplace Culture

At every institution, the most important asset for fulfilling their highest-order strategic ambitions—whether those be delivering on a high-quality student experience or driving local and regional economic development—is people. But high levels of staff turnover, increased competition with out-of-sector organizations, and widespread faculty and staff disengagement pose a growing threat to institutions’ ability to achieve these and other critically important aims.

To improve their market competitiveness and ultimately become employers of choice, institutions must treat talent as a strategic asset and make new investments to help attract, retain, and engage talented faculty and staff.

EAB organizes research on people and workplace culture around two critical priorities:

Modern talent function

  • HR organization and management
  • Work arrangements and spaces
  • Employee value proposition
  • Candidate experience and recruitment

Faculty and staff experience

  • Career development and advancement
  • Leadership development
  • Engagement and well-being
  • Inclusive workplace climate

Take action today

In the past, higher ed institutions relied on their mission-driven orientation, traditional benefits, and institutional brand to attract and retain talented employees. Today, though, these are no longer sufficient, especially since institutions are increasingly competing head-to-head with out-of-sector employers. As a result, campus leaders must adapt their talent strategy to align with what today’s employees value and expect, as well as more intentionally explain why exactly people should choose to work (and stay) at their institution.

EAB has developed a series of presentations, tools, and workshops to help your executive team—in partnership with HR—craft a compelling employee value proposition that attracts and retains top talent. Reach out to your Strategic Leader to schedule the first step in the process: an EAB-facilitated Introduction to Employee Value Proposition session.

Administration, Finance, and Operations

Institutions’ budget models often fail to reinforce campus priorities and commitments, instead locking them into damaging cost structures, underfunding strategic priorities, and creating harmful incentives. Campus leadership teams need to (re)design a customized model that aligns institutional resources with strategic goals and bolsters long-term financial performance.

EAB research organizes administration, finance, and operations research across two critical priorities:

Finance and administration

  • Institutional budget models
  • Cost containment
  • Process redesign
  • Shared services migration

Campus operations

  • Capital project planning and design
  • Deferred and preventative maintenance
  • Space governance and utilization
  • Campus sustainability
  • Campus safety
  • Facilities management

Take action today

Drops in enrollment for many institutions will put additional pressure on already scarce resources over the course of the next decade. Preparing for smaller classes and a workforce with fewer people is a reality that requires many of our partners to do less with less.

Going forward administrators will need to ensure they are optimizing the work they need to perform to sustain operations by embedding a culture of continuous process improvement into the fabric of the institution. Reach out to your Strategic Leader to learn how EAB can help you build the organizational capabilities and skills you need to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of processes across the institution.

IT Strategy

Today’s CIOs face a dual challenge: navigating disruptive technologies like generative AI while tackling longstanding IT issues. Fragmented infrastructure, a patchwork of point solutions, and data silos not only hinder AI adoption but also escalate cybersecurity risks and impede data-driven decision-making.

To address these multifaceted issues, CIOs often need cabinet-level support to secure resources to fortify campus infrastructure, harness emerging technologies, and enable enterprise-wide data management.

EAB Research and experts provide decision and implementation support across five critical priorities:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Digital transformation
  • Data governance
  • IT talent management
  • Cybersecurity and risk management

Take action today

Differing stakeholder priorities, uncoordinated IT initiatives, and day-to-day IT operations frequently deprioritize data governance initiatives—making it harder to access critical data for decision-making.

EAB introduced the Enterprise Data Management Resource Guide to help chief information officers develop a comprehensive data governance strategy, secure executive buy-in, and manage implementation. To learn more about participating in the collaborative, reach out to your Strategic Leader.

Student Experience and Well-Being

Most academic leaders think of advising, academics, or student affairs when thinking about student success, and it is critical to make these supports more streamlined, accessible, and student-centric. But the administrative infrastructure of a campus has an equally key role to play. Many students will struggle even more if they must overcome a multitude of administrative and financial hurdles to progress toward graduation. Ensuring you have the right policies, processes, and financial supports in place will improve student outcomes and your ability to execute your student success strategy.

EAB Research organizes student experience and well-being across five critical priorities:

  • Retention and advising
  • Experiential learning and career outcomes
  • Student mental health and well-being
  • Student belonging and DEIJ
  • Student activism and flashpoints

Take action today

Increasingly student mental health and well-being are not only playing a role in student retention and persistence but also in the decisions prospective students and families make when selecting an institution.

To embed more mental health and well-being touch points throughout the student experience and promote improved retention outcomes, EAB developed the Student Mental Health and Well-Being Collaborative. To learn more about participating in the collaborative, reach out to your Strategic Leader.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

It is the strong point of view of EAB research that diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) are not only mission-critical but margin-critical.  With shifting demographics, shrinking pools of prospective students, and growing challenges around attracting and retaining under-represented populations, university leaders cannot afford to lose momentum on their strategic goals even as stall points emerge on campus and political headwinds intensify.

EAB provides end-to-end DEIJ research and support across six critical priorities:

  • Manage vision and strategy
  • Reimagine institutional administration
  • Enhance faculty and staff experience
  • Improve student success
  • Redesign student learning
  • Transform campus climate

Take action today

Higher education institutions have made major investments in DEIJ initiatives in recent years, but these efforts often fail because they do not address the underlying causes of specific equity gaps. And too often, institutions face decision paralysis, unable to prioritize initiatives or even decide where to begin.

EAB’s Institutional Strategy Index for DEIJ comprehensively and objectively evaluates the current state of your institution’s DEIJ efforts against best practices. It creates a personalized, prioritized roadmap of investments and actions designed to help close your institution’s most critical equity-related gaps, first. Reach out to your Strategic Leader to learn more about participating in the Institutional Strategy Index or set up an expert consultation.


Institutional ambitions for advancement have never been greater with an increasing number of universities launching 500M+ capital campaigns while at the same time competition for donors’ mindshare and dollars continues to intensify. To thrive in this competitive landscape, colleges, and universities must recruit and retain high-performing advancement staff, invest in rebuilding their major gift pipeline, and more effectively collaborate with academic leaders to meet ambitious philanthropic and engagement goals.

EAB provides support for chief advancement officers across three critical priorities:

  • Grow and support your advancement team
  • Cultivate prospects and engage current donors
  • Maximize philanthropic giving to support institutional priorities

Take action today

EAB’s Advancement Investment and Performance Initiative (AIPI) provides chief advancement officers with data to systematically compare the performance of their internal operations to similar institutions and cohort averages.

AIPI comprises two parts: ROI benchmarking, which explores the staffing and investment decisions that lead to fundraising growth; and fundraiser productivity benchmarking, which focuses on individual fundraisers’ activities and outcomes on the front lines. To learn more about participating in AIPI reach out to your Strategic Leader.

Tony Donatelli

Tony Donatelli

Senior Director, Research Growth Strategy

Read Bio

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