In continuation of my previous blog post, I’d like to dedicate this one to discussing my 7 tips for successfully setting up a post-secondary institution in the United States.
Without further ado, let’s dive in:
1. Plan Excessively
There is no such thing as too much planning, and my first secret to success is to ensure that you don't scrimp on this detail. It's essential to plan out every aspect to the greatest extent possible, as this will give you a roadmap to follow as you open your university.
Pick the right location
When choosing a location for your private university, you'll need to consider a few things. First, is the area conducive to learning? Is it safe and quiet? Next, is the area economically stable? You don't want to open a school in an area that's prone to recession or other economic instability. However, the location you pick isn't just limited to physical facilities, but can also encompass the state itself.
Each state in the US has its own rules and regulations regarding private universities, so you'll need to do your research to make sure you can open your school in the state of your choice.
You'll also need to decide what type of university you want to open.
Are you looking to offer undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, or both? Each type of program has different requirements in terms of accreditation, faculty, and facilities. Some states won't allow degree-granting status to schools that aren't accredited for example so knowing which states are right is critical.
Choose the right program & delivery method
The next thing you'll need to do is develop a curriculum. This will be the foundation of your university, so it's essential to get it right. You'll need to determine what courses you'll offer, as well as what type of delivery methods you'll use.
Are you planning on offering bachelor's, master's, or doctorate-level programs? Will you offer online classes or only in-person classes? Or are you planning on providing a combination of both? Once you've determined this, you'll need to find professors who are experts in their respective fields and who are willing to teach at your university.
Understanding your target market is another critical piece of the puzzle. Who are you planning on marketing your university to? Are you targeting high school students, working adults, or a combination of both? Once you understand your target market, you'll be in a much better position to craft a marketing strategy that will resonate with them.
2. Research The Market
You can't just open a university without knowing what you're doing. Make sure to research the industry, the competition, and what it takes to run a thriving institution. Market research should include your competition, target students, and potential employers in your market and the roles they are looking to fill. If you can find a job for your students before they even graduate, you'll have a big leg up on the competition.
3. Create A Marketing Strategy
Now that you know your target market and what they want, it's time to start crafting a marketing strategy. This will be how you reach your potential students and inform them about your institution. Traditional marketing methods like print ads, billboards, and TV commercials can be expensive, so consider starting with some digital marketing methods like SEO, social media marketing, and email marketing.
Marketing is not a one size fits all proposition, so tailor your strategy to the specific needs of your target market. For example, if you're targeting working adults, you'll need to focus on flexible scheduling and online programs.
4. Hire The Right Staff
One of the keys to success is hiring great staff members who are passionate about education and willing to go above and beyond for students. Take your time with this process, and be sure to find staff members who fit well with your university's culture. Not only do you need to hire qualified professors, but you also need a great administrative team to handle everything from admissions to finances.
To attract top talent, offer competitive salaries and benefits packages. You should also invest in professional development for your staff to continue improving their skills. Hiring the best talent isn't just about the upfront interview. It's about creating an environment where people want to stay and grow.
Consider these ideas in your hiring:
● Define a hiring plan - what types of staff do you need? When will you hire them? How will you find the right candidates?
● Create job descriptions - what are each position's essential duties and responsibilities? What qualifications and skills are required? Job descriptions that are too narrow could discourage qualified candidates from applying, while those that are too broad could lead to unqualified candidates being hired.
● Review applications thoroughly - take the time to read each application and resume thoroughly.
● Make a decision - once you've interviewed all the candidates and checked their references, it's time to decide. Choose the candidate that you believe is the best fit for the position and extend an offer.
● Onboard staff - Finally, once you've hired your team, be sure to onboard them properly so they can hit the ground running. Assign a mentor to each new staff member, and give them a tour of the facilities. Be sure to introduce them to the rest of the team, and ensure they understand their role's expectations.
By following these simple steps, you can set your new university up for success from the start. With a well-qualified and motivated staff in place, you'll be on your way to achieving your goals in no time.
5. Source And Obtain Funding
Of course, no university can function without money, so you'll need to devise a financial plan. This includes figuring out how you're going to generate revenue and how you're going to manage expenses. You'll also need to determine how much start-up capital you'll need and where you'll get it from.
There are a few ways to generate the funds needed to open a private university. Some of the most common options include:
Borrowing from a bank is a good option for those with a solid financial plan in place. When applying for a loan, be sure to have all of your ducks in a row. This includes having a well-thought-out business plan, as well as projections for future growth.
Credit Cards and Lines of Credit
For those with good credit, another option is to use credit cards or lines of credit. This can be a quick way to get the funds you need, but it's important to be careful. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of any loan before signing on the dotted line.
Crowdfunding has become a popular option for startup companies in recent years. If you have a great idea and a solid business plan, many people may be willing to invest in your venture. There are several crowdfunding platforms out there, so be sure to do your research before choosing one.
6. Get Accredited
To be taken seriously as a university, you need to get accreditation from a recognized body. This process can take years, so make sure you start early. The accreditation process will ensure that your university meets certain standards and is providing quality education.
I’ve written about why accreditation is important and the different types of accreditation available to you in my past blog posts. Simply put, accreditation is essential because:
● It allows your students to apply for government financial aid
● It makes your university eligible to receive research funding
● It gives your university credibility both nationally and internationally
● Many states only provide a provisional license to new universities on the condition that they become fully accredited
● Colleges and universities must be accredited before students can sit in licensing exams
7. Choose The Right Time
In most cases, opening a university is lengthy, expensive, and complicated. Make sure you choose the right time to open your university. Look at things like:
● The current state of the economy
● The level of competition in the market
● Your financial situation
● Whether there are other universities in your area offering similar programs
● Demographics such as the number of high school graduates in your area
You're not going to have all of the answers right away. But it's important to do your research which includes talking to your prospective students. They are going to be the ones best suited to inform you of their needs and how you can best meet them.
Once you've made this determination, look towards building a buzz about your school. You want people to know that your school is opening and that it has something unique to offer. The more you get your name out there, the better your chances are of attracting students.
Remember, the timing might not be 100% perfect, but if you're passionate about your school and you're providing a needed service, then you'll be successful.
I hope this read was beneficial to you in your university setup journey. As always, if you need any help understanding how best to open a private university, give me a call or send me an email.