We have thought carefully about what it means to be one of the very best liberal arts colleges, and we have researched the characteristics of institutions already recognized as being among this group. In many cases, our strategies and tactics are informed by best practices discovered through this research.
Three sets of questions inform the strategic plan:
- What are the features that define the very best liberal arts colleges, and where does Lycoming need to achieve movement in order to be considered a peer?
- What are and/or can become Lycoming’s points of distinction and what investments do we need to make in order to leverage our points of distinction?
- Are there opportunities to position Lycoming as a national leader in higher education?
We use the phrase “point of distinction” in a way that distinguishes it from an area of excellence. Briefly, we see a point of distinction as something that sets Lycoming apart from other liberal arts colleges. We know that many excellent academic departments and majors exist at the College but we also recognize that only a few of them have the potential to set us apart from our peer and aspirant groups.
We also believe that as a national liberal arts college, Lycoming should look for opportunities to be relevant at a national, and even global level. Our Plan also identifies at least one possibility for the College to contribute to an important national dialogue and build scholarly knowledge about an issue of national and global significance: the global energy revolution.
Identifying Strategic Investments
Lycoming College faces a very competitive market. Accordingly, achieving our strategic vision requires that we make investments in the organizational capacity needed to compete. We know, for example, that Lycoming’s expenditure per capita ranks near the bottom of the national liberal arts group. While it is laudable that the College has been able to achieve its current status while spending less than its peers, at some point, one cannot “do (any) more with less.” In comparison with most other institutions, Lycoming is not burdened with the inefficiencies that stem from excess capacity or bureaucratic bloat. Instead, we now have the opportunity to enhance organizational capacity in a way that is informed by the goals and strategies articulated in this Plan. Therefore, we propose investment where there is a need to enhance organizational capacity.
Despite the views of some skeptics, the most thoughtful analysts of higher education agree that the residential model of higher education will endure as part of the American educational landscape. In fact, it is likely that quality of place will continue to define those institutions that are the very best liberal arts colleges. It will also be important then that Lycoming make prudent investments in physical plant—those that make it possible for us to compete for an even more talented student body and provide them with a transformational education. Currently, we are investing in the construction of a new science facility and renovating some of the residence halls that were built between 1948 and 1968. This Plan also identifies other investments that we should consider during the next decade.
We know that the faculty is one of the existing strengths of this college. Lycoming alumni speak enthusiastically about the education provided by this faculty. Lycoming faculty members are incredibly loyal to the institution and extend themselves to help recruit new students, mentor and retain current students and govern the institution. They are active scholars who also guide student research. Accordingly, the Strategic Plan identifies a set of investments to recruit, retain and develop a Faculty that remains an asset to this institution.
At the same time that we make investments in organizational capacity, the physical plant and the faculty, we must also continue to grow the endowment, especially endowed scholarships. This priority is driven by a set of interrelated demographic trends that are driving up discount rates and reducing operating margins. These trends include a decline in the size of the college-age population in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, shrinkage in the number of families capable of paying the sticker price for a Lycoming education, and a rapid growth in the segment of the college-going population that comes from low-income urban families. This plan includes innovative ideas designed to attract philanthropic commitment to scholarships.