Advice for Liberal Arts Colleges: Reinvest in Your Winners

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported that Franklin Pierce University shut down 6 of their academic programs. According to our data, they have 27 majors grouped into 20 fields of study.  The Chronicle reports:

"...The New Hampshire university will no longer offer degrees in American studies, arts management, fine arts, graphic communications, mathematics, and theater and dance. Current students in those fields will be allowed until May 2016 to complete their degrees. Full-time faculty members in the affected departments will be reassigned to other areas."

We applaud the decision of Franklin Pierce University. Based upon our latest data, the total number of students graduating in these programs was 35 for the 2012-2013 year. We estimate this is less than 10% of total graduates. Franklin Pierce has a big opportunity and we encourage them to seize upon it. In fact, I think they could have gone even farther and trimmed more of their weakest majors.

It would be a good policy for colleges to phase out more of their small programs in order to invest more in their "winners."  By winners, I am referring to programs that differentiate the college from others in the same sphere, offering students a top-notch educational experience and a unique advantage for the investment they are making in their future.

There is a simple reality today.  There is simply too much supply of liberal arts offerings with reduced demand.  Too many programs, combined with a shrinking amount of potential students based upon population trends, means colleges need to rapidly adjust their strategies.  To attract students, colleges and universities need to differentiate themselves now more than ever.  We hope more liberal arts colleges will follow the lead of Franklin Pierce.