New consortium network aims to help universities meet their needs

Like many higher education institutions, small and medium-sized universities face a range of challenges, including attracting students and recruiting and retaining staff in a competitive environment. Now, a new company called Core Education Services aims to help universities meet these challenges through its affiliate network.

The nonprofit, which launched Tuesday, describes itself as “a new kind of private network for small and mid-sized colleges and universities.” According to the press release, the services provided will include “marketing, admissions resources, workforce planning, technology modernization, operational efficiency, capital strategy, campus operations and compliance services.”

With 10 institutions already on board, Core Education has little choice but to seek to expand its university roster and form partnerships with universities in a variety of non-academic fields.

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Core Education Services is the brainchild of Rick Beyer, who started out in the corporate world but has a long history in higher education – including three years as President of Wheeling Jesuit University. Since then, he has worked with many universities in various capacities, which he believes has given him valuable insight into the challenges of potential clients.

“I’m starting to see models evolve. In these models, these universities are looking for: How do we transform to meet market demands? How do we build a financial model that works? How do we remain independent and maintain our mission?” Bayer said .

While some universities are merging or being acquired by larger institutions, independence is key to Core’s customer base, Beyer said. His organization aims to help universities navigate a challenging market by providing the services they need while allowing them to remain independent.

For example, if a university is struggling to recruit technical staff, Core Education can step in and provide services. While headquartered outside Washington, D.C., Core will employ mostly remote workers for its workforce, which Beyer said gives the company access to a large pool of talent that universities may struggle to attract on their own.

“We are able to hire very good people because they don’t have to all sit in the same office. But at the same time, we also hire people and place them in the academy, so we also have staff who are actually in the academy,” Bai said. Er explained.

The goal is not to replace staff, but to provide universities with resources they may struggle to provide or obtain locally, including recruiting staff in high-demand areas such as information technology.

Core will also be able to “spread our costs across many institutions,” Beyer added.

The 10 institutions Core is currently working with are all private religious colleges — although Beyer points out that religious beliefs are more of a coincidence than a purpose — with a combined budget of $457 million. They are: Greensboro College, Siena Heights University, Regis College, and seven institutions affiliated with the North American branch of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Core Education hopes to expand to 20 to 25 member institutions by next year, with a total institutional budget of more than $1 billion, Beyer said. Core is looking for small to mid-sized partner institutions with at least $50 million in assets, and Beyer said he could envision 50 to 100 institutions joining in the long run.

Just as every university is different, every contract is different. Basically each University client chooses from a menu of services that Core Education will provide to best meet their specific needs.

“Generally, we tend to do a lot of things in technology and revenue growth — on-campus revenue, online revenue, workforce development revenue,” Beyer said. “Those are the biggest pain points, but they do pick and choose and each contract is independent.”

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Outside experts see affiliate networks such as Core Education Services as potentially valuable partners for institutions struggling in areas such as enrollment management and talent acquisition. They also help institutions keep pace with the rising cost of maintaining a strong workforce.

But “the devil is in the details of execution,” said Cassia Lundy, the principal of the Ernst and Young Parthenon, who has written about effective partnerships and collaborative efforts in higher education.

Michael K. Thomas, president of the New England Commission on Higher Education, who has written about strategic alliances, noted that Core provides services that match the common needs of many small and mid-sized universities, especially those outside cities. the University.

“The services they propose to offer, operate and provide are critical to institutions turning around in terms of increasing enrollment and maximizing revenue,” Thomas said.

He added that many small and mid-sized universities were struggling in areas such as “marketing and admissions, technology and technology modernization” and had many “benefits that could be gained from the collaboration or integration of multiple institutions”.

With many small and mid-sized colleges struggling and some at risk of closing, some experts warn that the type of affiliation offered by Core isn’t a panacea, but it could be a boost.

“The idea of ​​this kind of network wider than a single institution, offering some economies of scale and some expertise, seems incredibly attractive across the market. Whether it’s enough for these institutions to survive and prosper, I think that’s a big deal. Extent is an open question, but at least it looks like it’s a step in the right direction.” – Wrote an article on higher education collaborations with Lundy.

While experts are cautiously optimistic about the rollout of core education, they note that there are many unanswered questions. For example, if the company grows to 50 to 100 institutions, how will the company manage the scale? Although Core is a public benefit company, it is still a for-profit company – how will this model stack up against not-for-profit affiliate networks like the Five College TCS Education System? Will the models offered by Core Education eventually expand their reach, and will they attract oversight or attention from accrediting bodies?

Currently, none of these questions can be answered. However, there are some additional questions that universities must ask themselves when considering joining an affiliate.

“I think universities have to really understand what their needs are, understand their institutions, what are the key challenges, and make sure that this partnership or network can meet those needs,” Thomas said. “I think universities have to guarantee that they will have a voice and representation and the ability to help create the nature of the collaborative network to be responsive to their needs. I think they also need some flexibility.”

With the population of high school graduates declining in much of the U.S. and the number of traditional students declining, experts believe the time may have come for higher education partnerships, especially for institutions facing the greatest economic pressure.

“We do think there is an opportunity for these more strategic partnerships to come into play in the years ahead. At some point, the institutions that seek to collaborate in the future may be weakened to the point where no one really wants them. So it will be A field that struggles to survive, rather than trying to innovate in order to prosper,” Ladd said. “The more they can think positively, as some of these core members have now, that might give them the opportunity to have better partnerships, better consortia than in the future.”

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