The recent Council of Independent Colleges 2012 President’s Institute in Marco Island, Florida welcomed nearly 400 private college presidents from around the nation to its annual meeting.
The theme “Champions of the Liberal Arts, Presidential Leadership in Independent Higher Education” focused on the proven and enduring value of a liberal arts education.
Perhaps not surprisingly, many of the program sessions – and those that seemed to have the strongest attendance – dealt with the numerous financial challenges facing higher education, in particular private education. Indeed, the conference keynote was given by Ronald Ehrenberg on the topic “The Economy and the Future of Independent Colleges.”
Education writers like Goldie Blumenstyk from the Chronicle of Higher Education and Doug Lederman from Inside Higher Education attended and wrote same-day articles on critical cost issues such as tuition discounting, academic program right-sizing, (referred to by at least one institution as “academic prioritization,”) and more arcane topics like debt ratios.
Many of the program sessions over the three days also dealt with the income side of the equation such as endowment management andof course the favorite topic of all president’s – fundraising. JGA’s Senior Consultant and Founder Ted Grossnickle and Westminster College President, Richard Dorman led one such session on “Developing Trustees as Fundraisers.”
One common theme that wasn’t a formal part of the conference, but was heard from nearly every president I spoke with, was that they planned on using the time before, during, or after the conference – sometimes all three – to visit with donor prospects.
Private higher education and the liberal arts are alive and mostly well, in part due to the generosity of alumni, board members, and friends of our private colleges and universities, not to mention the relentless good work of their presidents who never miss an opportunity to talk to one more supporter.