Michael Williams, PhD

Founder, The Austen Group

Mike WilliamsMike Williams is the founder of the Austen Group, now a division of Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

While he primarily focuses on the quantitative side of program review, his background in the humanities and as a faculty member informs his approach to this topic. He partners with senior administration and faculty members to help institutions become stronger and more effective through institutional research, especially the Cost and Curriculum Analysis. His recent campus clients include:
  • Azusa Pacific University (CA)
  • Barry University (FL)
  • Calvin College (MI)
  • Edgewood College (WI)
  • Marian University (IN)
  • Mills College (CA)
  • Northwestern College (IA)
  • Pacific Lutheran University (WA)
  • Tarrant County College District (TX)
  • Walla Walla University (WA)
  • Whitworth University (WA)

The Austen Group

Dr. Williams founded the Austen Group in 1998 in response to the need for more effective institutional research at small and medium-sized private colleges. The Austen Group has assisted more than one hundred and sixty small colleges and universities in the areas of academic program cost and demand analysis, predictive modeling for admissions and advancement, financial aid analysis and modeling, and retention analysis. The Austen Group has also produced the Key Indicators Tool and the Financial Indicators Tool for The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the CCCU Financial Ratios and Benchmarking Study for the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), and has worked closely with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the Association of Business Administrators of Christian Colleges (ABACC) to produce key indicator benchmarking.

Previous campus experience

Dr. Williams was the first director of the Juniors Abroad Program at George Fox University in Oregon, an innovative approach to study abroad that rewards students for persistence at the university by sending them all over the world.

He also directed an interdisciplinary alternative general education program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. He also chaired the English department at William Jewell for ten years, in addition to chairing a strategic planning committee, an experience that stimulated his interest in planning and benchmarking and eventually led him to found the Austen Group.


Dr. Williams is a frequent presenter at the CIC President and Chief Academic Officer Institutes, and has also spoken at the CCCU CFO conference and the EACUBO Annual Workshop. Recent presentations have included "Balancing the Quantitative and Human Sides of Curriculum Analysis" at the 2014 CIC CAO Institute, "Calculating Contribution Margin for Academic Programs in a Complex Curriculum" at the EACUBO 2014 Annual Workshop, and participation in the panels "Program Prioritization and Cost Containment" at the 2015 CCCU CFO conference at John Brown University, and "Financial Flexibility: Liquidity and Why It Matters" at the 2014 CIC Presidents Institute.


Dr. Williams received a PhD in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MBA from Rockhurst University in Kansas City.

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