SUNY Buffalo’s Got What #HigherEd Needs

new thinkingJohn Brodeur argues in PRWeek that colleges and universities need more than retooled brands and communications to relieve pressures that threaten to triple the college closure rate by 2017.

He’s right.

Sharpened brands and messaging are table stakes in a high-pressure game characterized by fewer prospective students, more educational options, regular tuition hikes, higher debt loads and more questions about the ROI of “going to college.”

Colleges need to operate differently, not just market better.

SUNY Buffalo’s “Finish in 4” program is a great example of the innovative thinking needed.

Finish in 4 is a pledge made by students and the university, and it’s a serious commitment by both.

Inside Higher Ed reports that Finish in Four requires students to meet certain obligations, such as registering for classes on time, following a structured academic plan and meeting with an advisor at least once a semester. In return, the university promises that students who meet program commitments but don’t graduate in four years can finish their degrees at no cost.

A decade ago, SUNY Buffalo’s four-year graduation rate was 35 percent. Today, four years after initiating Finish in 4, it’s 55 percent. And the SUNY system is seeking to roll out the program at all of its 64 campuses.

Scott Weber, senior vice provost for academic affairs at SUNY Buffalo, told Inside Higher Ed that the program has become a recruiting tool for both students and parents, who appreciate the university’s attention to timely graduation.

Finish in 4 flashes the on-campus innovation we’ll see more of in coming years – certainly among institutions that prevail.

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