2017 was a difficult year for small, private colleges across the nation. In one calendar year, St. Gregory University (Oklahoma), Grace University (Nebraska) and St. Joseph’s College (Indiana) all decided to shut their doors. Inside Higher Education even ominously coined the carnage “Days of Reckoning”.
These are trying times for higher education overall, but more so, for institutions similar to the ones that closed in 2017. In fact, a Moody’s analysis from 2015 predicted that the number of small college closures would triple before 2020. Ominous, indeed.
All of this raises the question – how do universities like ours not only stay healthy, but thrive in today’s challenging environment? The answer can be found right here at The Woods, not only by examining what we have consistently done over these past 25 years, but by considering what we did just last week!
On February 21, we announced the addition of four new academic degree programs that will begin being offered during the Fall 2018 semester. Each of these fields of study are entirely consistent with our mission of producing marketable graduates who are in-demand by a wide range of employers. They include a new Bachelor of Science degree in Cybersecurity, to meet the increasing need for information security analysts in today’s business world to meet the growing threat of Cyberattacks, and our new degree in Deaf Human Services, which is designed to help address the shortage of skilled, quality employees who are able to serve a unique population with unique needs.
Along with our two other newest programs, Management and Leadership and Registered Nurse to Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing completion, all four will be offered online (Deaf Human Services and Management and Leadership will be offered to traditional students as well). So in addition to merely adding these four new in-demand programs, it is also telling that we remain adaptable to serve the growing number of non-traditional students who are increasingly choosing to attend college. Online instruction is often their choice.
This is merely the latest example of how we have always done it here at William Woods. To do more than just survive and truly thrive as an institution like ours, it takes innovation, boldness and thinking ahead. We added online and graduate-level courses back in the early 1990’s, long before many institutions like us would even entertain the thought. We created innovative programs like LEAD and Woods Around The World that make us so unique. And just last fall when we announced the addition of a first-ever William Woods Nursing degree program. Not to mention that exciting announcement of still more new academic programs just last week.
The fact that we are rated as one of the Top 75 Regional Universities in the Midwest by U.S. News in 2018, while watching our total enrollment increase by nearly 200% since 1990, is simply no accident. We will always be looking for that next big idea, program, innovation or policy that makes William Woods University the best possible environment to receive a quality, well-rounded college education. We have been doing that for decades, and it is frankly, why we are where we are. As I tell the faculty and staff at our opening luncheon each year – the greatest risk we take is if we take no risk at all.