Intentional Redesign of the Community College Business Model and the Role of Integrated Institutional Effectiveness by Christopher Shults, Ph.D.

In the forthcoming publication, Reinventing the Community College Business Model: Designing for Organizational Success, I encourage community colleges to develop and implement a business model designed to optimize the student value proposition – which includes both student learning and overall educational outcomes. This comprehensive, integrated operational framework is constructed from the well-established principles of value proposition, key resources, product delivery, and profit formula; however, each is contextualized for higher education, especially community colleges, and represents a social, not a corporate model. The philosophies undergirding the reinvented community college business model (CCBM) are that all college operations must be guided and evaluated with student success as the sole measure of effectiveness and that the true community college mission is to enhance human development and societal improvement through education. Whoa, right?

If this seems exceptionally ambitious, naïve, or Pollyannaish, please explore and review some community college missions, visions, and values statements. We regularly communicate to the public, regulators, our communities, and our students some variation of this philosophy with intellectual and social growth, transfer and completion, and community development identified as priorities. An examination of the gap that often exists between student aspirations and goals and educational outcomes, however, tells a different story. Continued systematic financial disinvestment in higher education, defacto business models driven by growth, and the misuse of financial plans and budgeting as operational drivers have worked to prevent community colleges from effectively realizing their missions.

Adding to the difficulty of mission realization, changing dynamics at the sector, industry, political, and environmental levels, have rendered the traditional management techniques of planning (operational, strategic, and financial), assessment, resource allocation, and data analysis/analytics insufficient for optimizing the student value proposition or educational experience. While insufficient, they remain important tools within the redesigned business model. This value is enhanced when reimagined as pillars of an integrated institutional effectiveness (IIE) system which, by design, incorporates assessment, evaluation, planning, institutional research, and compliance requirements.  

The IIE system provides a structure that enables colleges to evaluate how institutional learning and evidence-based actions impact the student value proposition and educational experience. This approach necessitates continued and enhanced alignment and evaluation of all aspects of college operations – thereby providing a framework for detailing the strengths and weaknesses within the educational experience that impact overall student learning and educational outcomes. The mechanisms and processes that govern and reflect the work of faculty and staff, which are the most important supports for the value proposition, are effectively assessed when understood systematically, driven by content and support experts, and reinforced structurally and financially by the college. These evaluations represent opportunities for continued improvement and enhancement. When an IIE structure is embedded in a business model focused on student success, the college continues to challenge itself and, accordingly, better optimize the student experience. IIE alone doesn’t offer an adequate framework for value proposition optimization, however it provides both a necessary and powerful resource for community colleges moving to implement an intentionally designed business model.

Christopher Shults is the Dean for Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. His latest publication – Reinventing the Community College Business Model: Designing for Organizational Success will be releases in April, 2020. The publication is part of the Community College Futures Series and is being published by Rowman and Littlefield and Co-Published by the American Association of Community Colleges.

More information can be found at:

LinkedIn: Christopher Shults

Twitter: @Infamous_PhD