April 12, 2009

Growth requires subtraction as well as addition

Follow the link to a good Fortune case study about how Middlebury College (see Feb 2 '09 post) is coping with the economic downturn. There are lots of lessons for organizations - for-profit as well as non-profit - here.

"Especially in the private sector, higher ed has grown by adding new things without taking old things away. There's going to be a lot of soul-searching on campuses around the country, and colleges asking, 'What's essential?"

... comments Ronald Ehrenberg, a Cornell University economist who studies higher education.

The article also highlights Ron Liebowitz, who came to Middlebury as a faculty member in 1984 and is now its president, concern about a financial bubble:

"He watched the college's amazing growth with a mixture of awe and concern. 'I'd always thought the entire business model of higher education was a little suspect,' he says, 'especially for residential liberal arts colleges like Middlebury, because of what it assumes in terms of large endowment returns, large gifts from alumni, and tuition increases that go beyond inflation.' "


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