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Five strategies for regional public university leaders to succeed in today’s competitive market

May 15, 2024, By Calvin McConnell, Senior Director, Partner Development

Regional public universities stand as community stalwarts, serving as vital educational and financial hubs. They contribute to local economies and are usually the largest employer in their region. Moreover, these institutions educate nearly half of all students pursuing a bachelor’s degree at four-year public schools.

Yet, despite their importance, regional publics face a confluence of challenges that threaten their ability to continue this vital work. Both research universities and community colleges overshadow them, with students often prioritizing the culture of a large school or the financial affordability of a community college. This furthers competition for students and strains budgets.

I spend a lot of my time talking with leaders of regional publics, working with them through our Future Proof Network. What I find is leaders who are ready to put in the work necessary to keep their institutions competitive, but are unsure of where to start. To successfully prepare an institution against future threats (like rising competition and costs), leaders need to take a holistic look at their school’s overall health. Here are the five key tactics to successfully future proof your institution.

  1. Strategy Development and Future Visioning: Regional public universities must proactively plan for the future and critically think about their role in the context of higher ed’s changing landscape. This includes identifying strengths, setting clear objectives, and adapting to emerging trends to stay relevant and competitive.
  2. Cost Savings and Administrative Efficiency: Improving administrative processes and cutting operational costs frees up resources for essential academic activities. Process improvement and strategic talent reorganization are great places to start when it comes to administrative efficiency.
  3. Academic Program Portfolio Optimization: Regularly assessing academic programs ensures they align with student demand, workforce requirements, and institutional priorities. By investing in popular programs and reallocating resources from less successful ones, institutions can enhance their offerings and stay relevant.
  4. Budget Process Redesign: Having clear and flexible budgeting processes allows regional public universities to respond quickly to financial changes. This means prioritizing investments that directly benefit academics, student success, and community involvement.
  5. Differentiated Student Value Proposition: To attract and retain students in today’s competitive environment, institutions must showcase their unique strengths and advantages with a compelling value statement. Strong value propositions emphasize personalized learning, practical experiences, and strong ties to local industries.

By embracing these strategies, regional public universities can navigate current and future challenges and continue to serve as vital anchors in their communities. Visit to join the next cohort of leaders. For more information about other services offered through Strategic Advisory Services, click here.

Calvin McConnell

Calvin McConnell

Senior Director, Partner Development

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