Sharing the Success of Growth in Higher Education

May 16, 2023

It is time to shine a light on the many successes of colleges and universities. There is good news about higher education, from enrollment growth to improved student outcomes.

The Growth Imperative

Enrollment declines are widespread, but growth is possible. Community colleges, private liberal arts colleges, large public universities, and national online institutions are growing academic programs, attracting more international students, establishing strategies for curricular efficiency, innovating with new and emerging academic programs, and, in some cases, using machine learning to predict future program size and margin. 

Successful leaders are shaking off the negative chatter, seizing control of the future, driving enrollment growth, and enabling their colleges to thrive. But instead of taking my word for it, learn about the leadership techniques and practical strategies that presidents, provosts, faculty, and others use to drive growth. 

The following insights are taken from Robert Atkins’ new podcast, Grow Grow Grow: Stories of Success in Higher Education, which brings together higher-education professionals to speak about their experiences achieving academic program growth. 

Melissa Morriss-Olson on Getting Faculty on Board with Change

Morriss-Olson is the Distinguished Professor of Higher Ed Leadership and Founding Director of the doctoral program in Higher Ed Leadership and Organizational Studies (HELOS) and the Center for Higher Ed Leadership and Innovative Practice (CHELIP) at Bay Path University.

My experience has been, even with the most incalcitrant faculty member, often if you peel the onion down to what’s at their core, it comes from a place of deep dedication to the institution and a love of their students. Often they’re motivated by thinking that this change you are proposing is somehow detrimental to their students. And so you can help them see that the change will benefit their students.

So, for example, I’ve had this conversation with faculty who have resisted online. And when you get to the place where you’re talking about who’s in your classroom, talk about who these students are. The fact is that these are students who are from socioeconomically disadvantaged kinds of backgrounds. They may not always have the means to get to campus if they’re commuting, and they have other access issues. But if you can somehow use technology and use online learning to make education more accessible to these same students – I’ve seen the light bulb go on for these faculty who’ve then said, oh gosh, I never thought of it that way, that makes sense.

George Burnett on Offering Alternative Credentials

Burnett is the former President at NCU.

If you’re an institution of higher learning and you increasingly want to think beyond traditional students to lifelong learners, then you must think that not everything comes in 60 or 120 credits – it doesn’t come in credit hours. In other words, how do learning units break up into different things with lower absolute costs? They happen faster, but they have a higher, shorter-term impact.

Matthew Crellin on Data and Student Success

Crellin is the Program Officer at the Gates Foundation focused on Transformation and Student Success.

One of the things I think that we’re starting to see is that the IR functions are really relying on Dashboards to increase access to data, and we’re often highlighting using a collaborative approach to sharing data…that allows everybody to kind of look at the same thing and identify interventions that could promote student success.

It’s really about looking at that data, asking some questions, chasing insights, intuition, and then bringing that back together. It’s conversing with others on the campus to craft the appropriate initiative or response that will be right for that institution to promote its student success agenda.

The stories shared by Morriss-Olson, Burnett, and Crellin are a testament to the transformative power of higher education and the potential it holds when we embrace change, innovation, and data-informed strategies. The collective wisdom shared in the “Grow Grow Grow: Stories of Success in Higher Education” podcast series offers a valuable roadmap for those aspiring to lead higher-education institutions toward a future of growth and prosperity. This ongoing conversation about the positive strides in higher education is inspiring and serves as an invitation to continue sharing, learning, and growing together in this evolving landscape.

Mary Ann Romans


Mary Ann creates, defines, and executes the content marketing strategy at Gray, collaborating with the entire team to support our higher education partners through effective communication and provision of critical industry information.

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Sharing the Success of Growth in Higher Education

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