Smart, Succinct and Agile: Strategic Planning in an Age of Uncertainty | A Special Report from Inside Higher Ed


Smart, Succinct and Agile: Strategic Planning in an Age of Uncertainty

At a Glance

Challenges to higher education mount ever higher. The global financial crisis, which left institutions trapped in a vise between rising costs, shrunken endowments and curtailed public funding, has given way to a new period of rapidly changing student demographics, intense public scrutiny and disconcerting political unpredictability.

The choices colleges make in this world of escalating demands and limited resources inevitably cost them time and money. Sound strategic planning is critical for all types of institutions -- public and private, rich and poor, community college and research university. This in-depth report details the latest trends in strategic planning and best practices leaders can choose from to build a meaningful process able to motivate key constituencies.

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Topics Include

  • Recommended steps for creating a strategic plan, what can be accomplished in each step and key considerations to keep in mind throughout the process
  • Experts’ opinions on who should have a seat at the planning table and why a mix is crucial for a well-executed plan
  • The different roles planning can play at universities, ranging from marketing to drawing donor attention to setting long-term direction
  • The differences and similarities that rich, poor, public and private institutions face when developing a strategic plan
  • How strategic plans can benefit universities undergoing major changes, such as a merger, a shift in identity or a new president
  • The common mistakes and shortcuts that universities make when planning and how to avoid them


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Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Belief in Strategic Planning

Why Plan at All?

       Key Consideration: Accreditation

The Art of Timing

     Snapshot: New Presidents Handle Inherited Plans

The Planning Process

     Snapshot: Fast-Track Planning

     Key Consideration: Who Has a Seat at the Planning Table?

     Key Consideration: Making Metrics Measure Up

     Snapshot: Planning for Equity

     Key Consideration: Form and Function

Rich and Poor, Public and Private Institutions

     Snapshot: Planning a Major Change in Identity

     Snapshot: Planning After a Merger

Best Practices

Worst Practices

     Key Consideration: Climbing the Ladder

     Spotlight: Q&A From Across the Pond

     Snapshot: How Plans Have Changed

Is Strategic Planning Worth the Effort?


Additional Reading

About the Author


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About the Author: Rick Seltzer, reporter, covers business and management for Inside Higher Ed. He joined the publication in 2016 after working as a money and general-assignment reporter for The Baltimore Business Journal. Previously, he was a business reporter for The Bloomington Herald-Times, and he covered small business and health care for the Central New York Business Journal. Rick, a native of south central Pennsylvania, started his career as a local beat reporter for The Harrisburg Patriot-News. He graduated from Syracuse University in 2008 after interning at the Patriot-News and The Syracuse Post-Standard.


Number of Pages: 92 (16MB PDF)


Date Released: December 11, 2018


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