Institutional Strategic Planning: The Building Block for the Future

Gary Fretwell

May 14, 2019

As more and more colleges and universities are looking for new and innovative ways to grow, there is increasing pressure to adapt their business models. Campus leaders also can no longer assume that reputation alone can drive the budget. One good year doesn’t equate to future success and points to the fact that development of a sustainable approach is not only smart but critical to long-term viability.

Oftentimes those who have been in higher education for years can confuse the terms institutional strategic planning (ISP) and strategic enrollment planning (SEP); however it’s through ISP that institutions can address competitive and fiscal challenges effectively. ISP is a research-driven, data-informed method of vision development, mission fulfillment, realistic revenue planning, and fiscal management and sustainability.

Why is this distinction important? As with any type of structure, their needs to be a strong foundation it’s built upon and for any college or university, its foundation is its Institutional Strategic Plan. The next blocks added to this foundation include financial, enrollment, advancement, academic, and facilities planning. Not only does the ISP include enrollment but all of the other elements that make an institution viable and ultimately sustainable.

Differences between Institutional Strategic Planning and Strategic Enrollment Planning

ISP incorporates the whole whereas SEP links academic and fiscal planning to recruitment and marketing planning; therefore, by design ISP has a broader scope. Both planning processes incorporate a similar action and approach with each being data-driven at the very beginning.

Institutional Strategic Planning
Institutional Strategic Planning: The pathway toward sustainable fiscal health (click for larger image)

Building the foundation with firm footing happens by creating a meaningful link to an institution’s financial needs, academic mission, enrollment management, and fundraising processes, systems and communications to formulate a campuswide planning process. There is a need to develop an accurate assessment of the readiness of the institution to begin the planning process, and this is best accomplished with a comprehensive review of all of these areas. It has been our experience this is best accomplished with the combination of data review, discovery with a cross-section of campus constituents in each of these areas all the while marrying RNL deep understanding of building a successful college and university framework for success.

The purpose of this assessment process is to identify key performance indicators in each of the areas and to establish a clear situational analysis that will guide both short-term and long-term initiatives in order to achieve the institution’s desired state. This process both insures broad institutional preparedness as well as establishes the campus readiness to participate in the planning process.

How can Institutional Strategic Planning lead to sustainability for your campus? Ask for an RNL assessment

Assessing readiness to make sure you have a sound foundation to reach your overall institutional goals is the first step to sustainability. That’s why so many colleges and universities ask for an RNL Campus Opportunity Analysis.

We work with hundreds of colleges and universities of every size, type, and mission every year, helping institutions like yours find ways to analyze their challenges and find the optimal solutions to achieve lasting success. (My colleague Rob Baird previously shared his insights after working with more than 500 campuses.)

Contact us today and find out why so many institutions bring RNL to campus to uncover opportunities for success. Request an RNL on-campus analysis.