Public Purpose Magazine, Fall 2013
2013 PP Fall Cover

Different EquationsUniversities certainly face significant fiscal challenges. While some say the business model for higher education is broken, a more interesting inquiry might be to examine how the business model is evolvingBy Stephen G. Pelletier
Recent headlines and symposia have posed this deliberately provocative question: Is the business model for higher education broken? Ask that question in AASCU circles, though, and you often get a decidedly muted response.

It’s not that the question isn’t germane or timely—given today’s fiscal pressures, it is certainly highly relevant. Rather, one gets the impression that AASCU leaders have perhaps moved beyond that question. Or perhaps it’s that their first priority is to pursue practices that will help them thrive today and tomorrow. That pressing work doesn’t leave much time to reflect on the “is it broken?” inquiry.

Moreover, AASCU leaders will remind you, the business model for higher education is in a continuous process of rebirth. The Great Recession forced most institutions to rethink fundamental business practices, but universities have been doing that for decades in the face of declining state support. Before that, they had to re-invent their business models when the doors of public universities first opened to the masses, during past boom and bust cycles, and during changes in federal support for student aid. The business model isn’t a static entity, and honing it is an ongoing process. 

Changing It UpThree university leaders make transformative educational changes on their campusesBy Gayle Bennett

Universities aren’t generally known for being nimble organizations with cultures that encourage disruption and embrace change. Google the academy is not.

But in public higher education, the status quo is getting stale. The steep increases in fees and tuition, a changing job market, and a sustained rise in nontraditional students are creating a different perception of the value of higher education—and the news isn’t good so far.

Innovations in technology and the use of big data can help spur changes in pedagogy and curriculum that will better suit today’s students and the working world they will enter. The tools and knowledge already exist; the trick is for higher education to use them.

AASCU Members at Forefront of Providing Online EducationA recent survey shows that AASCU institutions are overcoming barriers—and reporting pedagogic improvements and increased enrollments and revenue by offering online programsBy Susan C. Aldridge, David L. Clinefelter and Andrew Magda

Although total college enrollments declined the last two years, enrollment in online courses and programs continued growing. It is estimated that 14 percent of college students are enrolled in fully online programs,1 while 30 percent take at least one online course. 

Over the past 15 to 20 years, the U.S. higher education system has developed an alternative pathway to a college degree: online study. Even traditional-age college students are going to class online because it fits their lifestyles.

True to their missions of access, AASCU institutions have been at the forefront of the movement to provide online courses and degrees. In a recent membership survey ( of AASCU chief academic officers, conducted in conjunction with The Learning House, Inc., an online education services provider, more than half of respondents reported that their institution offered five or more fully online programs. In fact, the percentage of AASCU institutions reporting this level of online programming is twice as high as the percentage reported in a similar survey of private colleges and universities administered to Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) chief academic officers (

On LeadershipPresidents & PracticesBy Wayne D. Andrews
I’m often asked by students and others, “What are the keys to being a successful leader?”
My response has been to say that much has been written on the subject, and there are many fine leaders one can observe in order to derive answers to this question. Having said that, I believe there are five key ideas worthy of sharing that define high performing leaders.