This blog summarizes key takeaways from our fiscal resiliency podcast series, episode two.
While COVID-19 has altered the higher education landscape significantly, fiscal pressures are nothing new to colleges and universities. For several years, institutional leaders have been concerned with a variety of issues, including:
Now is the time for leaders to examine their institutional missions and required strategies for the future. In our last podcast, we talked about the need to potentially revisit and deeply assess an institution’s differentiators, market permission and strategic priorities. It is equally imperative to evaluate your current institutional footprint honestly to confirm optimal alignment of all resource allocations and commitments to help you achieve your strategic priorities – and ultimately, your mission.
Leaders must chart a path forward with specific details on how to navigate the current climate strategically to ensure institutional sustainability. This plan should comprehensively evaluate the full range of resource allocations, asset commitments and debts and liabilities within the context of environmentally-driven modifications to revenue sources and realities.
With this forward-looking mindset, institutions need to evaluate what they should be doing – but also, what they should stop doing. For example, perhaps some activities, programs or locations are no longer a good fit. Institutions need to keep their footprints manageable and maintainable. For many years, the idea of eliminating key activities, programs or locations was unthinkable. Now, everything needs to be on the table.
The hardest part is knowing where to start. Everything that you have come to know is changing – the industry, the environment, the regulations. Even what we know about COVID-19 is changing week-to-week. It’s vital to engage the right stakeholders and bring them together to help move your institution forward. In many ways, the action needs to be strategic planning on steroids. Minor changes are definitely needed. Drastic changes may be necessary.
To simplify and break down the approach, consider the process of change in five phases:
Within the context of this process as it relates to your institution, there are specific areas to explore.
Ultimately, the critical questions to ask are: What is your institution’s vision for the future? How do you realize that vision within the current context? Who should be involved? What are your opportunities? How will you know them when you see them? And how do you best align your path forward with these opportunities to maximize the likelihood of long-term fiscal success?
To answer these questions, you need to be comprehensive – and bold. Prepare thoroughly, think creatively and act daringly to turn your institution’s challenges into opportunities for strategic realignment and much-needed change.
Higher education leaders continue to navigate the numerous challenges colleges and universities face in the wake of COVID-19. Baker Tilly's Higher Education Fiscal Resiliency Diagnostic is a free, beneficial tool that can help your institution recover from recent events, plan for future institutional sustainability and ensure fiscal and mission resilience.