Purpose and Plan
The Business Model is Broken
Higher education in the USA is facing a crisis of escalating operational expenses and concomitant increases in the cost of attendance for students. In particular, small independent (private non-profit) colleges and universities without large endowments are facing the challenge of maintaining the quality of educational offerings and broadening opportunity, while trying to lessen the impact of those increasing costs on current and prospective students.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics in 2013 there were 3,039 four-year colleges in the USA (nces.ed.gov). The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities states that there are 3.45 million undergraduate students enrolled in private, nonprofit colleges and universities and that there are 1,682 independent (private) four-year colleges and universities (www.naicu.edu). Zack Friedman of Forbes maintains that in 2017 there are more than 44.2 million borrowers with $1.31 trillion in student loan debt outstanding, making it the second highest consumer debt category. (www.forbes.com). Student loan default and delinquency rates are on the rise. While we realize a sizable percentage of this debt is for graduate education, most educators agree that undergraduate debt is reaching levels that concern many families.
Responding to the national crisis of affordability, accessibility, and matriculation, in 2017 nineteen independent colleges and universities, led by their presidents, created an organization – the Lower Cost Models for Independent Colleges (LCMC) Consortium – to work collaboratively to address the challenge of increasing expenses by 1) supporting each other in efforts to implement innovative programs that reduce costs both institutionally and to students, and 2) engage in collaborative projects to broaden curricular opportunities for students and lower individual institutional costs for such programs so as to pass along the savings to students.
For years, the LCMC has convened in person and virtually. The LCMC consists of presidents, chief financial officers, chief academic officers/provosts, and engaged faculty members and administrators to: 1) Share information on each college’s individual cost cutting programs; 2) Discuss important curricular initiatives that are in the active planning phase; and 3) Set in motion the possibility of additional shared initiatives.
The LCMC evolved from the leadership of Lasell College President Michael Alexander as well as philanthropic organizations that include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Davis Educational Foundation, and the Lumina Foundation.
The LCMC plans to disseminate information about its work as the projects are implemented to the higher education community, particularly the 680 independent colleges affiliated with the Coalition of Independent Colleges, through articles, workshops, and higher education journals.