To: Marlboro College Alumni and Friends
From: Will Wootton
I’ve complied here a number of somewhat disparate papers, articles, and reports on the definition and practice of retrenchment in higher education, which can also be referred to as “down-sizing” or “right-sizing.” Some are reproduced in full, and others you will have to search on titles or authors.
I prefer retrenchment, because down- and right-sizing suggest to me a single action, in that once that action is taken, the issues that lead to the institutional crisis no longer exist, and everything returns to normal.
That, of course, is not the case.
Retrenchment is a process of reprioritizing the financial profile of the College in order to survive within a proscribed institutional budget, while reprioritizing how the College functions and gains strength and security through new initiatives, careful management, and effective use of its educational and cultural resources, including its students and their parents, faculty and staff, and the greater community of alumni and friends of the college.
What I had proposed in the Challenge was an retrenchment study, which can take weeks or months, as opposed to an institution-wide retrenchment program or series of initiatives, which would go on for a number of years, maybe longer.
A study, on the other hand, is designed to determine whether an institution could, indeed, effectively employ retrenchment methodologies over the long term to first stabilize the institution, and then grow it to the point of economic security and educational distinction.
Unfortunately, that study will not take place. The current board is determined to follow through with the Emerson deal, and such a study is antithetical to their purpose.
Retrenchment initiatives seek to fundamentally address priorities which have not met with success, and either eliminate them or reprioritize then to an effective position within the developing matrix of an institution’s financial operation. In addition, retrenchment seeks opportunity, partnerships and associations of equal benefit, programs that strengthen.
One of the reports here lists “major” private and public colleges that have closed since 2016. Two things strike me about this list: first, not one of the nine federally recognized Work-Learning-Service colleges has closed or merged.
These colleges run from the mothership of Work Colleges, Beria, with about 1,600 students, to tiny Sterling College, with about 125 students. I suspect a number of reasons for this “survival success” having to do with community spirit and care of financial management. But my point here is this is the kind of program that Marlboro might examine. It’s the kind of opportunity that arises when an institution is looking to rebuild itself.
The second revelation regarding the list of private college closures is they all had at least one common element: a small per student endowment. Marlboro, by its own good fortune and the hard work and generosity of many, has amassed an envious endowment that on a per student basis is quite extraordinary, if it can be preserved. My point here, when it comes to retrenchment, is that a healthy endowment is a considerable asset towards success.
Without it, retrenchment would be that much more difficult.
1) Financing in a Period of Retrenchment: A Primer for Small Colleges.
O’Neill, Joseph P.; Grier, Phillip M. (ERIC ED 240954)
2) Retrenchment: How a Small College Copes. Duggan, John M.
AGB Reports, v28 n2 p15-17 Mar-Apr 1986
A small, Catholic college curtailed expenses without damaging programs by involving faculty, administration, and trustees in a detailed contingency planning process that resulted in a report stressing quality over quantity and outlining short- and long-term strategies for institutional planning. (MSE) ERIC Number: EJ333249
3) Financing in a Period of Retrenchment : a Primer for Small Colleges
Author: Joseph P O’Neill; Phillip M Grier
Publisher: Washington, D.C. : National Association of College and University Attorneys, ©1984. Edition/Format: Print book : English View all editions and formats
4) Retrenchment in Higher Education: Public Perceptions and Marketing Implications
Oscar McKnight Ashland University Ronald Paugh Ashland University
Jamie Waltz Ashland University Jordan McKnight University of Akron
Many institutions in higher education are actively engaged in the retrenchment process in order to achieve financial stability. This research examined public perceptions of retrenchment by conducting a series of modified Delphi groups. Results suggest a public awareness and belief that retrenchment will not impact academic or experiential quality. Presented is REDUCE – a retrenchment strategy for university administrators and marketing professionals.
INTRODUCTION In the ever changing environment of higher education, business strategies and practices are now commonplace. The strategy of retrenchment – the reduction or elimination of unprofitable programs, services or products – is the focus of this research. Specifically, the marketing implications of a university’s strategy of
retrenchment are examined.
5) Retrenchment Strategy
Definition: The Retrenchment Strategy is adopted when an organization aims at reducing its one or more business operations with the view to cut expenses and reach to a more stable financial position.
In other words, the strategy followed, when a firm decides to eliminate its activities through a considerable reduction in its business operations, in the perspective of customer groups, customer functions and technology alternatives, either individually or collectively is called as Retrenchment Strategy.The firm can either restructure its business operations or discontinue it, so as to revitalize its financial position. There are three types of Retrenchment Strategies:
“To further comprehend the meaning of Retrenchment Strategy, go through the following examples in terms of customer groups, customer functions and technology alternatives.
- Turnaround – The book publication house may pull out of the customer sales through market intermediaries and may focus on the direct institutional sales. This may be done to slash the sales force and increase the marketing efficiency.
- Divestment – The hotel may focus on the room facilities which is more profitable and may shut down the less profitable services given in the banquet halls during occasions.
- Liquidation – The institute may offer a distance learning program for a particular subject, despite teaching the students in the classrooms. This may be done to cut the expenses or to use the facility more efficiently, for some other purpose.
In all the above examples, the firms have made the significant changes either in their customer groups, functions and technology/process, with the intention to cut the expenses and maintain their financial stability.”
6) THE NEA HIGHER EDUCATION JOURNAL 25 ‘Hard Decisions’’: Retrenchment and the Faculty Role – Retrenchment Strategy and its Challenges
Retrenchment strategy is a strategy that is geared towards reducing expenditures; withdraw products or services from the market and to reduce the size of diversity. Retrenching strategy is also known as downsizing and cutback initiatives. The many challenges that are associated with retrenching are as follows:
Inability to meet consumer demands with smaller workforce.
Lack of diversity.
Decrease in profitability.
Retrenching consequences are “commonly divided into financial, organizational, and human effects (Gandolfi, 2006). Sadly, the picture of reported financial effects following downsizing is a bleak one (Gandolfi & Neck, 2008). A multitude of studies has demonstrated that while some firms have reported financial improvements from downsizing, the vast majority of downsized organizations have failed to reap the anticipated improved levels of efficiency, productivity, profitability, and competitiveness” (Cascio, 1993; Sahdev, 2003; Macky, 2004). The adoption of downsizing is not only expected to generate financial benefits through a direct increase in shareholder value, but to produce organizational benefits, including lower overheads, less bureaucracy, smoother communications, faster decision-making, and increased levels of employee productivity (Burke & Cooper, 2000). While there is some evidence of firms reaping positive outcomes (Macky, 2004), the majority of findings suggests that the adoption of downsizing often falls short of the objectives (Cascio, 1998; Gandolfi & Neck, 2008).
7) Sweet Briar College’s Second Chance
08/04/2015 03:59 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2016 Huffington Post
A new school year will start in a few weeks. All over the country, first-year students will be arriving on campus to start an important new chapter of their lives and returning students will be remaking some aspects of their collegiate lives while continuing others. Every new school year is a new beginning.
That’s probably more true at Sweet Briar College than anywhere else this coming academic year. Sweet Briar College was set to close in August of 2015, in a move that shocked much of the higher education world. Many of Sweet Briar’s alumnae vowed to fight that decision and after a widely-publicized contest that found its way into the Virginia court system, Sweet Briar College announced it would reopen for the fall semester.
As Brian C. Mitchell wrote here at the Huffington Post, the struggle to keep Sweet Briar College open is far from over. This is a reprieve, not a guarantee of resurrection for the school. That having been said, Sweet Briar College and its supporters have made important strides in recent months. 300 students will be attending Sweet Briar College this fall, about 50 of which are first-years who had been previously admitted. That isn’t a huge student body by national research university standards but Sweet Briar College is a small liberal arts college which had an enrollment of around 530 in the spring of this year, when the school said it would shut down. Sweet Briar College was able to regain a lot of its student body in a short period of time. Also, two of its acclaimed study-abroad programs have returned to campus. Further, Sweet Briar College’s alumnae recently made the second payment of three payments that they agreed to provide under the court settlement reached to keep the school open. As of now, $8.5 million has been paid out of the total commitment of $12 million.
So while Sweet Briar College certainly hasn’t guaranteed a prosperous future for itself (though strictly speaking, what institution can?), it has gained a new lease on life. I’ve been following this story fairly closely since I wrote a Huffington Post piece about it in March of this year. That piece was linked to by many Sweet Briar alumnae activists on Twitter (which I thank them for) and I have to say that I’ve seen first-hand how dedicated Sweet Briar’s alumnae are to the continued life of their alma mater. They didn’t simply allow Sweet Briar College to close without a fight and they stepped up to save their school.
Such good intentions, of course, aren’t going to be enough to keep Sweet Briar College alive during the coming years. There’s still a lot of work to do on that front. But what has struck me about this story is something I wrote about in the piece mentioned above. Sweet Briar College’s students and alumnae don’t want a homogenized version of higher education and they specifically want to keep a particular type of all-women’s liberal arts education available for future generations. That is something worth fighting for. I am pleased to see that at least for now, Sweet Briar College has been able to get a second chance. Let’s hope this isn’t a false dawn and Sweet Briar College is able to continue its unique role in American higher education. It certainly seems like a unique and wonderful place for the students who are drawn to it and I’d be proud to have my daughter attend Sweet Briar College if she so chose.
8) Back from the brink, Hampshire College breathes new life
The most famous graduate in the history of Hampshire College believes higher education should reflect values far beyond the art of the deal between a family and an institution.
“The recent (national) admissions scandal should remind us that higher education has always been a crown jewel that should not be degraded into a transactional thing,” says historian and filmmaker Ken Burns, who is helping the small liberal arts college in Amherst begin its second half-century of existence with new energy, new direction and a new revenue stream to make it possible.
“Hampshire educates all of a student’s parts. It doesn’t just funnel you into one discipline. When you go to Hampshire, you’re not just buying a brand,” Burns said.
Burns went to Hampshire in 1971, when the school was still brand new. His father had been a member of the University of Michigan faculty, and logic (plus free tuition) pointed his academic future there.
But Burns had read about Hampshire’s innovative approach to education, a virtual “school without walls” in which there were physical walls, but not the invisible barriers and restrictions of conventional higher education.
Armed with enough credits for early high school graduation, Burns recalled that at $4,730 a year for tuition, room and board, its expense was daunting. His decision was transformative, he said.
“Hampshire rearranged all of my molecules. I would not exist as I am today without it,” Burns said. “I have young children, and I want them, and my grandchildren, to be able to go to Hampshire. So we have work to do.”
Burns has plunged into Hampshire’s $60 million fundraising campaign with a target completion date of 2024. Chief Advancement Officer Jennifer Chrisler said $12.7 million, of which $4 million has been realized since September, has been raised.
The December total of just over $2 million tripled the usual draw for that month. Hampshire’s fundraising drive was fueled by necessity; facing the challenges that have closed or threaten multiple (and especially New England-based) liberal arts colleges, Hampshire trustees were forced to accept that without a dramatic turnaround, the unique institution risked losing accreditation and would have to either radically scale down its mission – or close.
One avenue for survival was to explore partnerships with other colleges, universities, or business sources. That might have jeopardized Hampshire’s fiercely independent approach to education. Not every partner taking on a financial responsibility would have been comfortable with a curriculum that “rearranges students’ molecules,” to borrow from Burns’ description.
But that is why Hampshire officials and alumni believe that now more than ever, the college’s willingness to experiment fits with what America will want and need most for the next several decades.
“The average student will have 13 different jobs in five different areas, some of which haven’t been invented yet, over his or her lifetime,” Chrisler said, citing studies. “Employers will want graduates who know how to ask good questions, pitch ideas and find resources. These are exactly the skills they are talking about, and the mindset they want.”
Boiled down, Hampshire’s approach has always been to teach students not how to respond, but how to think. Its attitude toward “out of the box” thinking is to remove the artificial box.
One of its competitive challenges has been that larger institutions have incorporated such creative thinking into their own programs, albeit incrementally. Having created a new model for education since its 1970 opening, Hampshire is planning to reinvent it, all over again.
“It’s a challenge, but also an opportunity,” said Jose Fuentes, the college’s new Board of Trustees chairman.
“Everything is on the table. We are using our 50th anniversary as the end of our 0-to-50 chapter and embarking on our new 50-to-100 vehicle.”
Fuentes, Chrisler and Burns agree that alumni are responding nobly. Burns said the only reason he doesn’t make the size of his own donation public is that so that others, who might not be able to match it, don’t feel theirs won’t matter as much.
“I’m asking alumni to make a contribution (large enough so that) it hurts – and then to do it for four years,” he said. “For some people, $1,000 will hurt, and $4,000 over four years will hurt more. But that’s what we need.”
Many institutions rely on tradition as a marketing pitch. Alumni with warm memories want to show their gratitude, but they also want new generations to enjoy the same opportunities.
That adds delicacy to a marketing pitch for change. Even progressive, liberal arts colleges risk pushback; when Amherst College declared it would change the name of its sports teams (a a nod to harsher modern appraisals of 18th Century British general Lord Jeffery Amherst), many alumni responded with anger.
Hampshire College has no intercollegiate teams, but it does have a curriculum under total re-examination. Fuentes and other officials say they will figure it out. That’s not an unsettling strategy to alumni who think “figuring things out” is always what Hampshire has done best.
“Some decisions we’ll make will be correct, and some not,” Fuentes said candidly. “That’s the nature of experimentation. We’re excited to create a unique movement for an agenda for the second part of the 21st Century, and not just for Hampshire.”
As alumni rally, Fuentes wants to also better define Hampshire’s mission to those who exist outside its own circle. Given a small enrollment that was 1,191 in 2018, that’s almost everybody.
“We haven’t done as good a job of as we can in communicating what we’re doing,” he said. Internally, the financial crisis was a wakeup call the school probably needed, he said.
“We thought that because we do so much for our students, and because we’re special, that’s enough,” he said. “Ten or 15 years ago, it might have been. But today, it’s not enough.”
Asked to define a sustainable business model, Fuentes said, “I wish I had a crisp answer, but the short answer is to have the right type and number of students with a compatible cost-based model. We are up to the task.”
Burns concurs that if Hampshire’s willingness to reject compartmentalized education seems bewildering to some, it’s because the college’s vision is futuristic, and one – he hopes – will be emulated on a more societal level in years to come.
Burns’ humility is genuine, but he is aware of his place as the college’s most high-profile advertisement for its concept. There is nothing groundbreaking about becoming a documentary filmmaker or historian. What has set Burns apart has been his skill at doing it differently, more personally and more creatively than anyone has ever done before him.
In the meantime, the fundraising mission is to put the college back on firm fiscal ground. Burns is well qualified; his films and documentaries have been made possible through private fundraising.
The early results at Hampshire encourage him.
“It’s really coming back in a positive way. Our new president (Edward Wingenbach) has taken the bull by the horns. We are working to get out of the crisis and take advantage of this opportunity to refine our position,” Burns said.
“We had to first escape the black hole of our circumstance, which we have done.”
When the “black hole” that threatened Hampshire’s future was made known in 2019, Burns urged administrators and alumni not to waste energy and valuable time by pointing fingers.
“I said, let’s stop trying to find blame. This is our situation. Let’s look at the present, and the future,” he said.
If alumni loyalty and the conviction of Hampshire’s unique mission drives Burns most, there might be an underlying motive. Most people love the fighting underdog. In this school, he sees that.
“The demographics are now against the smaller schools. They’re competing against other schools that have their own cachet,” he said.
But he also relates his conversation with a governor from another state who heard Burns was part of the drive to save this small, unique Massachusetts school.
“He said he probably wouldn’t have gone there, and he probably wouldn’t have recommended his children go there,” Burns said. “But he said he was glad I was helping Hampshire. ‘I really need to know there’s (a place like) Hampshire,’ ” he said.
That underscores one theme that, without provocation and in separate conversations, all the key parties echo: Hampshire College is not for everybody. They are convinced, however, that erasing it from the college landscape would be a loss, not just for those who attend or who would want to attend, but for the belief that higher education must avoid stagnation and be willing to explore, experiment and promote creative, independent thought.
“We feel really, really good about where we are,” Chrisler said. “We are on track. I’m extremely confident that we will hit our fundraising goal, and going into the future, we’ll be thriving.”
9) UPDATED: Nov. 1, 2019 A look at trends in college and university consolidation since 2016 By Education Dive Staff
The last few years have been tumultuous ones for colleges and universities in the U.S. Increased regulation and reduced enrollment continue to be among several factors contributing to the closure or consolidation of thousands of colleges and campuses around the country.
That consolidation also impacted the priorities of ones that remained open. Institutions are adding degrees and certificates in emerging tech fields such as artificial intelligence and cybersecurity, and dropping low-enrollment programs including some in the liberal arts. They’re also looking online, where they can reach more students with targeted subject matter.
That activity is ongoing, and analysts forecast more of it ahead. That is why we’re keeping track of closures and consolidation in the space from 2016 to the present. You’ll note that we’ve removed for-profit colleges from our list. Due to their differences in size and scale, as well as the sometimes fragmented nature of their closings, we’ve opted to keep them off the list in order to avoid over- or understating a closure. However, we include a discussion of activity in that space below.
We’re pairing our list with analysis of the major trends the data reveals. We’ll update both as we hear about closures, M&A and other consolidation.
Below, we explore some of the biggest trends in higher ed consolidation.
Small liberal arts colleges fight to stay open
Undergraduate enrollment is on the decline, reducing the tuition revenue many small colleges rely on for lack of a sizable endowment. Experts say the drop-off is due in part to a strong economy and projections of a cyclical decline among the college-age demographic. To help attract more students, colleges are offering them a bigger break on tuition.
A 2016 report from Ernst & Young affiliate the Parthenon Group found 800 colleges vulnerable to “critical strategic challenges” due to their small size, compared to a much smaller share of colleges with enrollments over 1,000. The report lists several risk factors for small colleges amid the current environment of consolidation in higher ed. Those include: enrolling fewer than 1,000 students; the absence of online programs; tuition increases greater than 8% and discounts higher than 35%; and depending on tuition for more than 85% of revenue.
In a review of more than 75 New England colleges enrolling more than 100 students and that had annual expenses of less than $100 million in 2012 and 2016, The Boston Globe found tuition accounted for 70% or more of revenue at 63 institutions. Harvard University, by comparison, got 21% of its revenue from tuition in 2017. Small liberal arts colleges have played an important role in the region’s economy and history, The Globe notes, which is partly why their closures tend to make headlines.
Tight budgets and small endowments factored into announcements by several New England colleges in recent months that they, too, would close. The 2018 closure of Mount Ida College, located near Boston, made headlines yet again this spring when a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by students alleging officials knew the college was in financial trouble and didn’t inform students of the situation until it abruptly shuttered in May following a failed merger attempt. The judge said the claims didn’t stand up to state law and that paying tuition in exchange for education “does not create a contract” between the institutions and students.
Not all colleges faced with the likelihood of closing end up doing so, however. Iowa Wesleyan University raised enough money from alumni and the community to stay open for the spring 2019 semester after officials said it might close due to financial difficulties amid enrollment declines.
Major private liberal arts college closures and consolidation, 2016-present
|American Jewish University||CA||2018||Closed (Temporarily)|
|College of New Rochelle||NY||2019 (expected)||Closed|
|College of St. Joseph||VT||2019||Closed|
|Concordia College Alabama||AL||2018||Closed|
|Green Mountain College||VT||2019||Closed|
|John Wesley University||NC||2018||Merged (Piedmont International University)|
|Marlboro College||VT||2020 (expected)||Merged (University of Bridgeport)|
|Mount Ida College||MA||2018||Closed|
|Saint Joseph’s College||IN||2017||Closed|
|Shimer College||IL||2017||Merged (North Central College)|
|Southern Vermont College||VT||2019||Closed|
|St. Catharine College||KY||2016||Closed|
|St. Gregory’s University||OK||2017||Closed|
|Trinity Lutheran College||WA||2016||Closed|
Sources: Click here
Public systems consolidate
Just as small colleges are undergoing major consolidation, so too are some larger university systems. Among the most high profile is the set of mergers underway within the University of Wisconsin System, which will consolidate 13 two-year colleges into seven four-year colleges. It’s the system’s biggest change since it formed in 1971, according to the Wisconsin State-Journal.
The University of Georgia System has been consolidating campuses for several years in a move to reduce operating costs and improve student outcomes. A trio of community colleges in Alabama, too, is consolidating into a single institution with a new name: Coastal Alabama Community College. Connecticut’s community colleges are also eyeing an administrative consolidation.
Slightly fewer than half of college mergers between 2010 and 2017 — roughly 40 across nine or more states — involved at least one public college, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Stateline publication. Colleges face several challenges to successful mergers, however, including the potential for cultural mismatches, higher tuition from reduced local competition and challenges reconciling salaries of two-year college employees with the often-higher rates commanded by those at four-year institutions, Stateline reported.Consolidation of individual colleges or entire systems is most successful when it’s part of a strategic plan and not a last-ditch effort to save an institution, according to a 2017 report from the research arm of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America. The report notes potential short-term costs include updating campus buildings, marketing the change and lost efficiencies despite the move to scale, and that gains pay out over the long term.
Major public college closures and consolidation, 2016-present
|Alabama Southern Community College||AL||2016||Merged (Faulkner State and Jefferson Davis community colleges)|
|Armstrong State University||GA||2017||Merged (Georgia Southern University)|
|Asnuntuck Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating Administration|
|Bainbridge State College||GA||2017||Merged (Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College)|
|Capital Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Cumberland County College||NJ||2019||Merged (Rowan College at Gloucester County)|
|Faulkner State Community College||AL||2017||Merged (Alabama Southern and Jefferson Davis community colleges)|
|Gateway Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Georgia Perimeter College||GA||2016||Merged (Georgia State University)|
|Henderson State University||AR||2020 (pending)||Merged (Arkansas State University System)|
|Housatonic Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Jefferson Davis Community College||AL||2016||Merged (Faulkner State and Alabama Southern community colleges)|
|Johnson State College||VT||2018||Merged (Lyndon State College)|
|Lyndon State College||VT||2018||Merged (Johnson State College)|
|Manchester Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Middlesex Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Naugatuck Valley Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Northwestern Connecticut Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Norwalk Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Quinebaug Valley Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Three Rivers Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|Tunxis Community College||CT||2023 (expected)||Consolidating administration|
|University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Platteville)|
|University of Wisconsin-Barron County||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)|
|University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)|
|University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)|
|University of Wisconsin-Marathon County||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)|
|University of Wisconsin-Marshfield||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point)|
|University of Wisconsin-Richland||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Platteville)|
|University of Wisconsin-Rock County||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Whitewater)|
|University of Wisconsin-Washington County||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)|
|University of Wisconsin-Waukesha||WI||2020 (expected)||Consolidated (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee)|
|Wichita Area Technical College||WI||2018||Merged (Wichita State University)|
Argosy University, one of a handful of college chains owned by Dream Center Education Holdings, had its Title IV access blocked earlier this year. |Credit: Tom Woodward/Creative Commons via Flickr