Adrian College’s Shared Services Approach to the Liberal Arts

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Jeffrey Docking, President at Adrian College joins the podcast to discuss how the survival strategy for small liberal arts colleges must contain a shared services approach to liberal arts education with other similar institutions.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Jeffrey Docking, President at Adrian College. President docking, welcome to the show. Thank you for having me, Eric. I'm glad to be here, so glad to have you here and really excited to talk with you today about a shared services approach to Liberal Arts College collaboration. But before we digin, can you give the listeners a little background on Adrian College? Sure, founded in eighteen fifty nine, like so many small privates across the country. So that takes us to...

...around a hundred sixty three years and very traditional, small private liberal arts school located about forty five minutes out of Van Arbor Michigan. Love appreciate the background and and congrats on a hundred and sixty. Okay, president, docking. In two thousand and fifteen, you wrote crisis and Higher Education, a plan to save small liberal arts colleges in America. What has changed the most in the past seven years regarding the survival strategy for Liberal Arts Colleges? Yeah, great question, and I think what I was really trying to bring out in that book initially is proven to be true, which is the business model of higher education is simply broken and even though we have great colleges and wonderful people, great faculty and Terrific Students, the numbers simply don't work. And so schools. I think I've really been doing two things to stair, excuse me, three things to stay afloat during these really tough years. The first one...

...is they'd simply increase their discount rate. They're buying students. I mean, I think when I got into this twenty five years ago, of your discount ray was a thirty percent. It was pretty high. You have schools now that are seventy, seventy five even. I saw a school the other day that as an eighty two percent discount rate on their freshman class. So they're buying kids. The second thing, which isn't talked about very often eric is their endowment draw school should be a really should only be withdrawing forty five percent of their endowmont every year, and you got schools now that are drawing nine and ten, eleven twelve percent to keep the lights on, and so that's a big problem because they're spending down their endowment. And then the third thing is what I wrote about in the first book, which is they've increased co curricular activities and athletic teams primarily to simply bring in more kids who want to do something outside the class whom that they can't do at the big are once your big statement here is the numbers just don't work. Let's say a college...

...were to conduct standalone cost benefit analyzes for each of their degree programs. It is reasonable to think, and some of us have seen this, that after that analysis one might be tempted to start cutting a whole lot of everything that's not business, nursing, computer science, stemmadjacent. But are we thinking about the problem correctly, or are we not fully understanding how our institutions could be more complementary and collaborative with each other? Well, that is also right, and I think the colleges are simply thinking about it wrong. You know, for a hundred and fifty years schools, if thought independently, they've pretty much been insular. They've almost been secretive about what their next major, the next minor is, what they're going to do to sustain or growing rollment. And what I am saying in my most recent book, the College of the future, is that we can actually ensure our survival and prosper actually by cooperating and...

...by bringing efficiency to what we do, by sharing class of sharing program sharing majors, doing some things I can talk about in a minute that really make a much more possible for schools to add instead of attract, to bring a more students. So, for example, during the worst part of the pandemic, when everybody was buttoned down, nobody was adding anything. Everybody is worried about cutting cost we added twenty five majors and miners and certificate programs at Adrian College for almost nothing. And we were able to do that because we work through the lower cost models consortium of about a hundred thirty schools that have said Nope, what we're in on this were we want to do this together. We realize things are broken. Let's begin to share and it's it brought in forty nine kids in my freshman class last year and this this fall I'll have over three hundred students taking class as in these courses. You reference the lower costs model, consortium. He tell us a little more about that consortium and...

...is this a or the collaboration model that you believe more institutions should be utilizing for things like resource sharing? I do in the short story on that is about seven or eight years ago, Michael Alex is bander, the President of Lasalle University out in Newton, Massachusetts, pulled about seven or eight college presidents together and said Hey, my friends, it's not working. What can we do to work together? This business models broken, and so we put together this consortium. It started out with seven or eight, it grew to about nineteen colleges and universities and now we have about a hundred thirty five institutions nationwide sharing courses and some fields that students want to go into, including esports management, Computer Science, Public Accalis, project management. All of these courses are being shared among these hundred thirty schools so that we can solve this problem from within, so that we're now waiting for Silicon Valley to come with sort of the next big answer and so that, frankly, we can get the quality...

...control that comes with having all five one c threes traditional colleges with with with great infrastructure and faculty working together, as I said, to bring efficiency so that families and kids can finally afford a college degree, bring down the coast and off for more instead of less with respect of the change in economy. I think many of us who have been in hired for a long time since that high red is inherently collaborative. There has been a generosity, in a transparency within higher education. We're all missional aligned. We want the best far students and so we tend to share, but we tend to share some things and not others. That the collaboration that you're talking about is a is a different kind of level. What makes sense for colleges to keep doing on their own and what makes sense to start sharing that? You believe our liberal arts institutions aren't currently sharing enough. Well, I agree with you that. I think philosophically we believe and share it in cooperation, but maybe haven't done it...

...as well as we should have, especially in recent years. I think that the things that we should continue to do strictly on our own, as everything outside the classroom. That's probably the easiest way that I can stay it. I think that all student affairs should be done on their own. I think that sports, athletics traditions, even the health center internships, volunteer experience, even even the dining hall experience and programs, all that should be part of the traditional college campus that we will preserve through this lower cost miles consourcier model, because all of that continues to give young people that traditional four year sort of wonderful, you colic experience. The sharing, I think can really occur on the academic side, in which key classes and high growth areas like some that I just mentioned, new majors and minors. Certainly engineering degrees can be shared. A lot of our schools need engineering degrees. I think some introductory...

...classes could be shared. You know, many faculty really want to teach some of the higher level stuff and they'd rather share at the one and one and two a one level. So those can be shared. And then finally the most obvious one or just undersubscribe classes. There are just classes and majors right now that have so few classes are excuse me, so few students and them that they really do hemorrhage, and beginning to share those so that we get a more vibrant class by having kids from different institutions in them is the way to go and much, much more cost effective. Let's talk about what is worth preserving. What should we make sure we hold on to in terms of the numbers? Don't work. Some could argue that boy, that experience, that for year on campus experience. Boyd that sure is a whole heap of the model, as well as the funding struggle. So, as we work to evolve our institutional strategy, as we seek out greater collaboration and partnership with...

...other institutions, is the experience of a liberal arts education pass a or something that we should hold on tight to? Yeah, I know that the experience of the Liberal Arts Education is absolutely something we should hold on too. In fact, I often will tell my staff that I'm a liberal arts a Halik, because never has this world needed liberal arts majors more than they do right now with the divided, war torn world that we have. And so, you know what is Liberal Arts teach us? It teaches us how to listen, how to observe, how to measure and reason and obviously read all of these our arts. And so when you elevate something from a skill to an art form, you say that this this person is ready to make a difference in their community. And so we need the liberal arts. And that's the beauty of this model is that schools in the Lord cost models consortium still have all of those things that you just mentioned, you know, dropping, you...

...know, their son or daughter off in August and moving me into their dorm room and kids meet new friends and get lifelong relationships and, you know, take the vast vast majority of their classes in the traditional way, but they share just a few classes. For example, we just started supply chain management. Well, to start that at a drink college, we only had to use four classes from another institution and assured arrangement over four years, and so everything except for four classes, it's done in the traditional way and when you combine that with their liberal arts electives and classes that they can take outside their major, you're really preserving the best and that's what we love most about this. It saves the best and just tweaks it a little bit so that we can do things that are better for students and families. Dr Docking. Such great stuff. Leave us with some next steps. Advice for Liberal Arts Institutional leaders listening, trying to design and find the future of education. They're looking...

...to improve their enrollment growth strategies and how they approach the challenge. Where should they start first? How should they be thinking about this? Yeah, I think what they are to be thinking about is that change is not optional, it's inevitable, and we can either take the future into our own hands and change as we want to change. We can shape the future of small private liberal arts colleges, or we can be controlled by the future or, in fact, victimized by the future if, in fact, were forced to close, as so many colleges have over the last few years. And so, you know, we're paid to be leaders, were paid to be realist, we're paid to make educated decisions about where we go and I think that by working together, by shaping, as I said, how we move forward as a consortium of colleges, we can create an even better educational system that the world continues to think is the Enva of the world. And so, yeah, I think that the trust these are really getting. I think presidents are...

...as well. I think faculty or nervous because it does represent change. But this if you look at this model that we put together, it actually saves faculty jobs in a long term. So it's a time to come together and harbor our resources and truly share in a way that raised an even better system. President doting, thank you so much for your time today. What's the place, best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions? Yeah, we have a very good website, rise dot education. The Lord cost miles consort, Shum is sort of linked up with a group to put together a platform called rise, our ize dot education, and and that's this platform makes it possible for us to share courses and that's probably the best place to go. They can find it by googling it and, as I said, I recently wrote a book called the College of the future, which they can also get on Amazon, which really explains this and much more detail. Awesome, president doting, thanks so much for joining us today.

Oh, thank you, Eric. I really appreciate the opportunity. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies, helix educations, data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institute cuitions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix educationcoms playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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