Cautionary Tales: Strategy Lessons From Struggling Colleges

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9781579227791: Cautionary Tales: Strategy Lessons From Struggling Colleges
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Scarcely a week goes by without a headline about the unsustainability of higher education as we know it, under threat from new models, for-profits, or online education. Most threatened are small liberal arts colleges – with commentators predicting the demise of colleges with fewer than 1,000, or even 1,500 students. Are these trends inevitable, or can they be overcome?

Through a unique case study approach to examining and analyzing colleges that have struggled, Alice Brown reveals the steps that can lead to a sustainable operation and, when closure is inevitable, the steps to do so with orderliness and dignity.

Rather than expounding on trends, or management theory and prescriptions, Brown focuses on narrative examples of survival and closure, recounted by real people in actual colleges, and reports the lessons they learned. Here are examples of strategies involving mergers, partnerships, or “going it alone”, and their outcomes, that illustrate principles that can serve as guides for fragile colleges struggling to address their social and economic challenges.

Added to Brown’s six carefully researched and extended case studies, her own insights and analyses of decisions made and actions taken, this book offers guidance by seasoned scholars and administrators on issues as varied as leadership, the roles of the president, governing boards, faculty and staff, in articulating and implementing mission and strategies for survival, and on the changing landscape of higher education. The references to the literature on college survival strategies constitute an education in themselves.

While this book is of immediate practical value for trustees and leaders of small colleges as they look toward and plan for the future and for anyone aspiring to an administrative positions in higher education, the examples constitute a microcosm of the interplay between the external constituencies, governance structures and internal forces that sustain or undermine institutional health, and which are hard to observe clearly in larger, more decentralized environments.

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About the Author:

Alice W. Brown spent much of her academic life as an administrator at Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Kentucky, having taught previously at Appalachian State, Ohio University, and Eastern Kentucky University. She directed an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant that led to the formation of the Appalachian College Association, which she then led as president until her retirement.

Review:

"The importance of this study stems in large part from the ever-growing need for small colleges to confront realistically their circumstances and to think carefully about their prospects. Brown's accounts of efforts, often heroic, to contend with ominous signs yield important insights."--William G. Bowen

"Alice Brown's new study of colleges on the brink of closure provides a fascinating resource for college planners. The book's case studies of a half dozen such colleges, told from the vantage points of key participants in the decisions that proved most critical, gives texture to our understanding of the ways in which institutional histories actually unfold. The accompanying essays by several informed observers provide a broader context for the case studies. And Alice Brown's own observations, inferences, and recommendations for the future will be sure to stimulate--and provoke--debate about what should happen as well as what did happen. In a field that is often dominated by jargon, Brown's clear prose makes for engaging reading."-- (09/01/2011)

"This volume could be useful for students as they prepare for careers in higher education. The insights provided by Alice Brown and her colleagues will help students make better decisions in their work, and avoid some of the challenges faced by institutions described here. The essays in this book focus on small private institutions, but they contain useful lessons for students who will often be working in larger universities or community colleges. Colleges and universities of all types currently face challenges to their finances, their curriculum, their organizational structure, and their sense of mission. The scale and context for these issues vary widely, but the emphasis in this book on clear analysis of institutional issues and honest communication with constituencies on and off campus is fully supportive of the goal of training future leaders in higher education."-- (09/01/2011)

"Cautionary Tales is a highly readable set of case studies and analyses with up-close-and-personal insights into the origins of the threats to organizational survival, as well as the strategies for responding successfully (or not). It's a roadmap for organizational health, for spotting and avoiding problems before they become overwhelming, and for becoming sustainable, not just surviving. There is rich material here for all the key players: trustees, presidents, faculty members, and administrative staff on the roles they play and the responsibilities they often share for both the onset of survival threats and for their successful (or unsuccessful) resolution."-- (10/01/2011)

"If you have any interest in the understanding the nature of the fiscal crises facing the nation's smaller private colleges and universities, I urge you to read this first-hand account of the obstacles facing those committed to thwarting disaster. We have much to learn from Alice Brown's skillfully created case studies and thoughtful reflections."-- (11/01/2010)

"Pays particular attention to threats faced by small, private liberal-arts colleges; offers case studies of colleges' strategies to stay afloat, including merging with another institution or partnering with a for-profit."--The Chronicle of Higher Education (04/24/2012)

"Cautionary Tales: Strategy Lessons from Struggling Colleges uses a case study approach to analyze the different experiences of colleges that have struggled with major issues affecting their survival, and is a fine collection of narrative examples of struggle and closure that will greatly supplement any education collection strong in educational trends and prescriptions for health. Chapters present six carefully researched case histories, analyzing decisions, actions, and their impact, and provide administrators and educators alike with insights into the influences upon success or failure. An outstanding survey!"--The Bookwatch

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Brown, Alice W.; Bowen, William G. [Foreword]; Hayford, Elizabeth R. [Contributor]; Johnson, Richard R. [Contributor]; Whealler Johnston, Susan [Contributor]; Kneipper, Richard K. [Contributor]; Puglisi, Michael G. [Contributor]; Zemsky, Robert [Contributor];
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