Programmatic choices are among the most important and difficult strategic decisions an education provider can make. An outdated program portfolio may include once-great programs that now have limited student demand or jobs for graduates. Great new programs may be overlooked. An unfocused portfolio may have a scattering of small programs that are difficult and expensive to manage. Like good gardeners, educational leaders must regularly decide what to prune and what to plant. Every year, great schools decide which programs to Start, Stop, Sustain and Grow.
It is not easy to decide where to invest and where to sunset. Some high-performing programs need more attention and money to grow; others may have saturated their markets. Some weak performers are in poor markets where additional investment would be wasted; others are in good markets, where investment may be richly rewarded. To make matters more complex, current programs compete with potential new programs for money, time, and management attention. As a result, optimizing an institution’s portfolio requires a comprehensive look at all current and all potential new programs.
For the last decade, Gray has served colleges and universities in every sector of higher education. Recently, our work has focused on program portfolio strategy, using our Program Evaluation System (PES). In 2017, our team helped institutions serving over 950,000 students use PES to assess the fit between their programs and markets. This work has brought together administrators and faculty and built consensus on the right program portfolio strategy.
Gray’s approach to program portfolio strategy enables colleges and universities to achieve the following results: