Helping small colleges survive— and thrive

What does the future hold for small institutions?

Higher ed leaders join Mary B. Marcy, author and Dominican University of California president to discuss The Small College Imperative 

The challenges for small colleges and universities across the country were already plentiful. Then came an unforeseen global pandemic that changed everything. Guiding a school during this time is no small feat. Mary B. Marcy, president of Dominican University of California, knows firsthand the challenges of leading a small college to success — as well as the fundamental importance of these institutions in the higher ed ecosystem.

On Thursday, January 28, InsideTrack brought Dr. Marcy together with nearly 20 higher ed leaders in a unique online book club setting to discuss her book “The Small College Imperative: Models for Sustainable Futures.” President Marcy guided attendees through her hopeful and thought-provoking insights on the future of small colleges and universities — including plenty of time for Q and A.

Three key takeaways 

college degree

 1.  Earning a degree is more important than the specific major. 

At a time when students are looking for a clear return on their investment, how do you promote a liberal arts course of study? Majors come and go. The important part is completing the degree. And in today’s job market, employers are increasingly looking for (and valuing) the soft skills students learn from a liberal arts course of study. Problem-solving, creative thinking, teamwork, written and oral communication skills, flexibility — these skills translate to any field, regardless of major.


2.  To succeed and sustain, small privates need to band together. 

Countless small private schools are facing a broken business model that will ultimately price them out of the market. Now’s the time for presidents and schools to work together in a consortium approach, laying their cards on the table and sharing ideas. Students and communities need the kind of education these institutions provide. Seeing other schools as supportive allies rather than competitors can help turn the tide. Interested to hear how a small private college is adapting its enrollment practices? Check out our Power of Partnerships series with Brian O’Rourke, Vice President of Enrollment at Mount Saint Mary’s University, a small liberal arts women’s college with two campuses in Los Angeles. 


3.  Time to move on to Diversity 3.0.

During the largest racial justice movement of a generation, students are looking at the curriculum and not seeing themselves represented there. As DEI training evolves, it’s likely to be more integrated into the student experience, both in and out of the classroom — not just “add-on” programs in the curriculum. More and more schools are bringing students to the table and giving them a voice, helping build out DEI training and curriculum from the inside out.

If you’re interested in joining future InsideTrack book club events, let us know!

Meet Mary B. Marcy 

Small college president Mary B. Marcy

Mary B. Marcy, president of Dominican University of California, is a member of InsideTrack’s national advisory board. She is also the author of The Small College Imperative: Models for Sustainable Futures, which explores the challenges that small, independent colleges face in responding to the changing demographics and economics in higher education. During her time at Dominican, Dr. Marcy has led the adoption of programs that are instrumental in drastically improving graduation and retention rates — a key part of InsideTrack’s mission to unlock the potential of individuals and institutions.

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