Is Your Institution Ready for a Big Return on Investment?

Dawn Hiles

Senior Vice President

August 26, 2020

Some things are certain: death, taxes, and the key to wise investing—buy low and sell high. Although we all agree that buying low and selling high produces a great return on your investment, it’s important to unpack the environment that’s often in play when the market is low. Uncertainty and risk tend to drive a market low, which then creates the optimal time to invest. Therefore, maximizing ROI requires investing at a time when risk and uncertainty are peaking.

In 2020, higher education finds itself dealing with historic levels of uncertainly and risk. Given the day-to-day questions around student behaviors, the health and safety for the campus community, and budget implications, we are likely at or near the buy low point. But will colleges and universities accept the uncertainty and risk that go hand-in-hand with smart investing? Over the next 12-24 months, we expect institutions will fall into three categories.

The Wait and See Institutions

This group will follow what others do and will always be a step behind. They will act only if/when the conditions become so painful, they have no choice but to act. Unfortunately, by then the market has moved on without them and it becomes much more expensive to recover lost market share.

The Retractors

This group will apply across-the-board budget cuts in an effort to stop the bleeding. This group will lose market share the fastest as those cuts damage their recruitment efforts and put them at a competitive disadvantage.

The Savvy Investors

This group understands there is market share to be gained from the Wait and See and Retractor institutions. This group will leverage donors and reserves to make strategic budget reallocations to invest in revenue-driving activities.

What are the things colleges and universities need to do to be smart investors in 2020?

What does your institution need to do to be a “Savvy Investor”?

No doubt it is difficult to invest when conditions are at the low point, but as every savvy investor will tell you, reward rarely comes without risk. And right now, with many institutions falling into the Wait and See and Retractor categories, being bold can reap significant rewards.

However, investing wisely requires intelligence, analytics, and strategy. Where should you make your big bets? Which risks are ripe for ROI instead of likely pitfalls?

We’re helping institutions assess these critical questions right now with a new type of analysis specifically tailored for the current environment. We’re calling it the READY Review because it helps campuses assess and strengthen their online and hybrid offerings in order to be ready for our new future. This review assesses up to five key areas that are essential for institutional sustainability now and into the future.


What’s the real tuition and enrollment potential of your online portfolio? Which programs have the greatest ROI? Answering these questions will go a long way to improving the fiscal health of your institution.


To be competitive for the students you want and to maintain a healthy enrollment funnel, you need a modern digital recruitment infrastructure. This analysis looks at lead generation, application cultivation, and how you can target the right students for your institution or program.


Now more than ever, institutions need to provide the right number of online courses and deliver an online course experience that exceeds student expectations (especially if you want to maintain healthy tuition levels). This part of the analysis reviews program design, instructional design, and academic and faculty support services.


COVID-19 showed the need for campuses to shift between online and hybrid delivery. Students now want the option to shift seamlessly between modalities and will expect that ability going forward. It’s important for institutions to maximize their LMS capabilities and their technology stack to optimize their online/hybrid offerings.


Do you have the right structures in place to reduce enrollment melt and increase persistence and completion? Having as robust of a student success support system for online learners as you do for in-person instruction is a must for long-term enrollment success.

Let’s talk about how you can make the right moves right now

If you are interested in exploring ways an investment with RNL can help you grow your graduate and online enrollment revenue, contact us to schedule a short 20-minute exploratory conversation. We can talk about your goals, challenges, and steps you can take to move forward.

Strengthen your online and hybrid offerings with the RNL READY Review

Be prepared for the digital learning transformation with the RNL Ready Review. Assess up to five key areas: revenue, enrollment, academics, delivery, and yield.

Learn more and request now

About the Author

Dawn Hiles, RNL

Before joining RNL in 2013, Dawn Hiles served as vice president of enrollment management and dean of admissions at Drury University (MO), where she partnered with RNL. While in this role, and she credits the...

Read more about Dawn's experience and expertise

Reach Dawn by e-mail at Dawn.Hiles@RuffaloNL.com.

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