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Higher Education Strategic Planning

Higher Education Strategic Planning | Collaborative Planning for Higher Ed | NCHEMS

Collaborative Strategic Planning for Higher Education

Our History & Expertise

The 1970s brought both opportunities and challenges to virtually all colleges and universities. Many factors contributed to this paradox, including the dynamic growth of knowledge and information, changing demographic patterns (i.e., the influx of the Baby Boomer generation entering postsecondary education), escalating costs, and increased competition for resources. As a result, many schools began to engage in more formal, long-range planning. This type of information-based planning and management focused on the projection of certain conditions such as enrollment numbers and associated costs. NCHEMS developed a computer-based instructional-cost simulation model known as the Resource Requirements Prediction Model (RRPM) to assist institutions with these planning and management challenges.

The shift from long-range planning to strategic planning took place in the mid-1980s after NCHEMS observed new demographic changes that resulted in fewer enrollments and led to the consideration of how student outcomes could impact planning and management. NCHEMS demonstrated that the collection and use of outcomes information could be used to improve planning in colleges and universities. NCHEMS quickly became a central source for applied information and practical guidelines regarding the assessment of student outcomes and the use of the resulting information for planning and management purposes.

With well over a quarter-century of experience in strategic planning work, NCHEMS has maintained a significant track record of recommendations that have substantially changed the trajectory of postsecondary education in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Connecticut, Tennessee, Kentucky, and others has resulted in lasting changes.

Other examples of our past work include:

Utah Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission

After two years of work, the Utah Higher Education Strategic Planning Commission formally approved NCHEMS’ report and forwarded it to the legislature in November 2019. Many of the recommendations have been implemented including a revised governance structure, changes to the funding model, steps to ease transfer, especially for general education and technical courses, actions that improved affordability for students, accelerated efforts to implement new models of learning, and enhanced the ability of students to gain credit for prior learning assessment.

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)

Strategic planning work in 2015 with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) set the system on a path for a more sustainable future. NCHEMS helped PASSHE chart a path forward in the wake of a debilitating strike and under unfavorable demographic and financial conditions.

North Dakota Roundtable

In 2000, NCHEMS provided support to the North Dakota Roundtable resulting in a set of goals for higher education in North Dakota, a delineation of tasks to be performed and the groups responsible for the various implementation steps, an agreed-upon set of accountability metrics linked to the goals, and a new set of relationships between higher education and state government. As a result, institutions received increased autonomy in resource utilization in exchange for institutional accountability for contributions to the attainment of state goals.

Vermont Select Commission on the Future of Higher Education

In 2021, our research-based recommendations to the legislatively created Select Commission on the Future of Higher Education in Vermont led directly to legislation and investment in a transformation plan for the Vermont State College System.

Our Work Today

Changing demographics, declining enrollment, and diminishing state funding are still among the many complex challenges facing states, systems, and institutions. As a trusted, independent, and impartial partner, NCHEMS continues to help states, systems, and institutions find pragmatic, feasible, and sustainable solutions during their strategic planning process.

A Contextualized Approach

From our principals and leaders to our researchers and analysts, our work draws on the broad range of experience and expertise of our talented staff. We provide a wide range of support to commissions or task forces, often comprised of politicians, educational, and business leaders from all parts of a state. Often, these entities are created to seek solutions to intractable problems among a diverse membership not naturally inclined to have a shared understanding or perspective.

Our process involves a substantial number of hands-on hours conducting interviews, facilitating meetings (both in-person and virtual), and compiling survey data in order to include perspectives from stakeholders and to inform a contextualized understanding of the goals, opportunities, and challenges within the postsecondary environment of the state or system.

Informed Decision-Making

NCHEMS has a long history of using data to inform decision-making in higher education. Our skilled staff are experts in analyzing data and in building various models and visualizations that help provide pathways to workable solutions. We examine a wide range of institutional, state, and national data to inform strategic planning efforts.

Data analysis provides insights and context when facilitating discussions with stakeholders in addition to providing the basis for broad-based environmental scans, feeding the development of heuristic models that NCHEMS creates, and providing the quantitative foundation for resulting reports and recommendations.

Higher Education Strategic Planning: Looking Ahead

As we move further into the 21st century, we are likely to see a shift from institutional-based planning to system-based planning. This shift will be particularly relevant in non-growth states where students are not located near the institutions, raising questions of how to take education to the students instead of students to the education. With system-based planning, we’re positioning the system to best meet the higher education needs of the state by drawing on all assets of institutions under its control. Our strategic planning work will incorporate these shifts, and we will continue to draw upon our expertise and experience to help guide states, systems, and institutions toward sustainable futures.

Visit our Projects page to learn more about our extensive work and impact on strategic planning.

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