Universities are a cornerstone of our economic and social prosperity and the key to realizing the American dream. A college degree is worth about $1.5 million more earned over a lifetime.
The period from 1945-1980 was a Golden Age of higher education, defined by rapidly growing enrollments and increased investment from states and the federal government (e.g., GI Bill). From 1980-2008 was a period of relentless public disinvestment and steadily increasing tuition. We are now in a new period that continues these trends and is further defined by worldwide competitive forces and consolidation due to demographic, fiscal, and technological factors.
Systemic concerns have developed over that same time period. These can be generally divided into fiscal concerns, changing demands for services, and a reliance on stopgap measures to confront a changing marketplace:
OU’s strategy must choose among market segments. We must develop a brand premised around it. Impactful research is integral to brand value and will be core to OU’s future.
It is essential that we focus on the most distinctive characteristics of the OU experience, both locally and nationally.
Differentiated and financially sustainable public institutions do the following:
Brand strength and economies of scale must be realized at the enterprise level (i.e., across all OU campuses), and there must be trust and alignment between roles and accountability. We must balance shared governance practices with a level of agility to react to opportunities and challenges.
Our Strategic Plan must garner understanding and buy-in from relevant constituencies. In academic institutions, success requires a culture of excellence measured by agreed-upon institutional standards calibrated to achievable, aspirational targets. We must avoid false economies which cost us value in the long run.
A bold, honest and clear-eyed strategy must be adopted that allows the institution to flourish.