Monday, March 14, 2011

Branch Campus Opportunities

I haven’t posted on Branch Campus Life in awhile. Instead, I’ve been developing a new blog, Creating the Future, which addresses topics that could be of interest to branch campuses, but reflect my personal focus on innovation in higher education, including programs for adult learners and distance learning. You can find the new blog at You also can link to my personal web site from the blog or by clicking on this link:

I will continue to post on Branch Campus Life, from time to time, to address specific branch campus topics. I know how important it is for people on branch campuses to find others with similar experiences, as a way to identify best practices, test their own ideas, or assure themselves that they are not alone.

To that end, I want to mention the two annual conferences that support branch administrators. The first, NABCA, is coming up April 20-23, in Seattle. You can learn more at The second, the RBCA Leadership Conference will be June 19-22, on Longboat Key, FL. Information can be accessed at Most participants especially value the networking opportunities these conferences provide.

Changing directions, I’ve had a remarkable journey, the past nine months or so. Moving to my encore career provided time to read and reflect, talk with colleagues, consult, and coach. The experience reinforced my belief that there are golden opportunities for branch campuses and centers. Given the challenge of budget reductions and increased competition, more institutional leaders recognize the importance of attracting new audiences. Branch campuses are in an excellent position to combine traditional face-to-face courses with online or hybrid courses to maximize student access and flexibility.

The difficulties remain the same, of course. Leadership may want to see campuses and programs grow, but their understanding of higher education entrepreneurship is often limited and naïve. As I’ve written before, the rate of change inside most established institutions is slower than the rate of change from emerging competitors, and that also is not good. My own recent experience reinforces my belief that revenue sharing plans tend to be out of balance, if they exist at all, missing the potential energizing effect that a well-conceived plan can provide.

For branch campus leaders, I urge greater attention to the power of revenue sharing plans. If branch campus folks fail to appreciate the expectation that they will contribute to solving institutional budget challenges, or if main campus leaders get too greedy, everything else will be for naught.

Some institutions and campuses will respond creatively, and some will not. Look deeply at how you add value for prospective students, focusing on their point of view, not yours. Step up your market research, because the cost of mistakes will be higher than ever. Network and learn from colleagues’ successes and failures. This could be your time!