Future of Independent Higher Education

About the Project

​Predictions about the future of higher education by politicians, journalists, and policy analysts often disregard the effectiveness of traditional colleges and universities. This project, however, is designed to explore fresh approaches to higher education, new college business models, and potentially disruptive changes to American society and education along with the traditional qualities and missions of independent liberal arts colleges that are essential to the success of such institutions.

The long-term goal of this project is to engage CIC’s Institutional Members in a reconsideration of institutional missions, strategic plans, and financial models that retain the student-centered nature of independent colleges. The project also is an opportunity for CIC and its members to exercise more visible leadership in the national conversation about what it means to offer a high-quality education in the 21st century.

The Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education is guided by a Steering Committee of two dozen independent college and university presidents. The project is supported by a grant from the Lumina Foundation with additional support from the TIAA-CREF Institute.

Current Status

​The initial meeting of the Steering Committee took place in Washington, DC, on September 16–17, 2014. The focus of the meeting was the development of a year-long research agenda, which included research on mission-driven innovations by independent colleges and universities, new college business models, innovations in teaching and learning, student and alumni outcomes, and changes in faculty roles and the composition of the faculty at smaller independent colleges.  The Steering Committee met for a second time in Washington, DC, on October 27–28, 2015, to review the research completed to date. The committee also developed two working lists of “essential” and “negotiable” characteristics of independent, nonprofit, liberal arts colleges, as useful resources for CIC member institutions in their own deliberations about the future. These lists were discussed during an open forum at the CIC Presidents Institute in January 2016. CIC is developing plans for the next phase of the project.

Steering Committee Members

Steven C. Bahls, President, Augustana College (IL)
Ronald L. Carter, President, Johnson C. Smith University
Roger N. Casey, President, McDaniel College
Jeffrey R. Docking, President, Adrian College
Margaret L. Drugovich, President, Hartwick College
Elizabeth A. Fleming, President, Converse College
Thomas F. Flynn, President, Alvernia University
Christopher B. Howard, President, Hampden-Sydney College
Todd S. Hutton, President, Utica College
Chris Kimball, President, California Lutheran University (Chair)
Walter M. Kimbrough, President, Dillard University
Larry D. Large, President, Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities
Paul J. LeBlanc, President, Southern New Hampshire University
Mary B. Marcy, President, Dominican University of California
John McCardell, President and Vice Chancellor, Sewanee: The University of the South
Kevin M. Ross, President, Lynn University
Ed L. Schrader, President, Brenau University
Elizabeth J. Stroble, President, Webster University
Henry N. Tisdale, President, Claflin University
Edwin H. Welch, President, University of Charleston
John S. Wilson, President, Morehouse College
Cynthia Zane, President, Hilbert College

Contact Information

​Questions regarding the Project on the Future of Independent Higher Education should be directed to Philip M. Katz, CIC director of projects, by email at pkatz@cic.nche.edu or by phone at (202) 466-7230.