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Edupreneurial Thinking and Doing Are Necessary in Today’s Higher Ed Marketplace

By John Lawlor

The Lawlor Group and RHB recently completed their collaborative survey of independent college presidents throughout the country and shared an executive summary of the findings at the CIC Presidents Institute (#2017PI) earlier this month. The same findings are also being shared with all of the conference registrants at the NAICU Annual Meeting coming up later this month.

As Rick Bailey and I noted previously, we had observed a growing concern among college presidents over the responsibilities they must shoulder in dealing with the marketing challenges they are facing—some internal and many external. It became apparent that there was a real need for presidents to have a shared understanding about the real marketing challenges facing private higher education, as well as a more informed perspective about how to address them and create opportunities that advance their institution and meet marketing goals.

No doubt the market intelligence gathered from the survey results provided some informed insights. And hopefully the findings are a catalyst for thinking differently and fostering a culture of edupreneurism—that is, entrepreneurial thinking in the higher education marketplace. But there is still some hesitation by senior leadership to think and act differently—even if market conditions are such that it is a necessity.

Kevin M. Warren, the opening speaker at the CIC Presidents Institute, noted that much of higher education is “wrestling with muscle memory of doing things the same way.” Others shared with me that “inertia is not a strategy forward” and many leaders are simply “unduly complacent.” Warren added that “success is a matter of choice, not chance” and that presidents must “embrace opportunities of change and mitigate risks.”

So while many people long for the days of yesteryear, the reality is that new, innovative entrepreneurial thinking is important to find the happy trails that can help lead to distinction, relevance, and value. The higher education marketplace is evolving at a dynamic pace. Colleges and universities must respond accordingly. Developing and implementing edupreneurial solutions is worth thinking about doing.