The Importance of Recruitment of Faculty & Key Staff for Small Colleges

Allen MeadorsBy Dr. Allen Meadors, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina-Pembroke and a member of the Edu Alliance Advisory Council. Dr. Meadors has been engaged in a number of college and university searches throughout his career.

As higher education institutions and systems roll into 2018, the framework of higher education continues to be faced with financial restrictions, reductions, and unexpected costs. Continuous declining public and private funding are forcing college and universities (especially smaller ones) to make “tough choices” in cutting faculty, staff, maintenance, degree programs, and student services to name a few as a means to preserve its core missions. Higher education is “scrambling” to divert limited resources and attention to fundraising, campus/student/faculty security, online enrollment and various outreach degree programs.

In our business of educating students, the “soul” of our operation is our faculty and key staff. The popular saying from a few decades ago “It takes a village to raise a child” can be easily adjusted to say “It takes an entire faculty and staff to educate a college student.” This is true whether we are talking about educating students in the traditional on-campus fashion, online, or through some other mode.

The above is true for well-funded institutions, but for small and/or underfunded institutions the challenges are institutional “life” threatening. Where large and/or well-funded institutions can have multiple layers of staffing to handle various pieces of the institution’s many professional obligations. A small and/or underfunded institution may only have one or two or even have to have an individual cover what 3-4 individuals might at another institution.

The media often focus on student recruitment as the key for success in higher education. Without question, we would not exist without adequate numbers of students. Institutions regardless of size or financial condition must always be analyzing what it’s mission is and what type of student fits that mission. However, like in any business, those who do the work at the institution are the key. How do you even begin to define your niche in higher education without first identifying what your institution’s strengths and challenges are? At a small institution, these are the most critical questions you will need to answer. Who are we? What are we? In a time of declining resources, we must know who we are as an institution and where we want to go. Of course, this all starts with our current and projected faculty and staff.

All institutions in higher education, like to believe that they are “student-oriented” but at small “at risk” institutions, it is critical that this message is extremely clear. In recruiting faculty and staff, at these institutions, we must seek individuals who see student engagement as the center of the educational experience. Often, we will ask faculty at these institutions to handle significant teaching loads. We cannot afford to hire faculty that sees teaching as something they “have to do” to be able to have the time to spend on scholarly/research projects. We need faculty who can see their classroom activities as part of their scholarly/research platform. Individuals who can enhance their scholarly/research agenda via their classroom involvement?

John Collins’ quote from Good to Great “Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats” is the key for small higher education institutions surviving. The right people understand the mission of the institution and aligns with the institution’s values and goals.

As important as this alignment is for faculty, it is equally as important for the academic administration. They must all be on the same page. In a small institution, no one has the luxury of just having one job. Everyone must be moving in the same direction and sharing the same vision and values. We, often, talk of the passion that educators have for their profession. This is not always true, especially in larger organizations where many see their position as “just a job.”   In large, organizations, with multiple layers, this can occur, and the institution can move along smoothly. However, in a small institution, it is important that every person has a real passion for their work and the goals of the institution.

Small institutions must spend an inordinate amount of time on ensuring they recruit and retain individuals who can align with the institution vision and goals. It doesn’t matter if an institution does their own recruiting or uses a search firm. The campus leadership must be sure that the individuals hired by the institution are the “right” people.

We all want to make a good living for ourselves and our families, but one of the amazing things about many individuals who chose to work in higher education is that their passion to serve and share is their driving force not just the amount of their income. A small institution must seek out these passionate and committed individuals and let them know your institution shares their passion.

We have seen individuals (both faculty and staff) leave higher paying positions to work for an institution that demonstrates its passion for “student engagement.” It may take longer to find these individuals, but it will be well worth it.

Dr. Allen Meadors article “the Importance of Recruitment of Faculty and Key Staff for Small Colleges” is a part of the “Things That Keep Higher Education Leaders Awake at Night” series by Edu Alliance. We thank Allen as well as our Partners, Advisors and Friends for their valuable contributions and insights.

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Our specific mission is to assist universities, colleges and educational institutions to develop capacity and enhance their effectiveness.


American Colleges and Universities have seen massive growth in international student enrollment. In a period of 11 years, international students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs has nearly doubled to over 1,000,000 students by 2015-16. According to a study conducted by the National Association for Foreign Student Admissions using US Department of Education & Commerce data, the 1,043,839 foreign students contribute $32.8 billion to the US economy and 400,812 jobs. For every seven international students, a new job is created, and each student generates $31,422 in revenue.

Students come from around the world, and most are paying full tuition. They are bright, studious and believe the education they are receiving is of excellent quality and when they graduate they will be offered excellent job opportunities. Most citizens of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East believe American higher education is the best in the world and they are proud that they, their siblings, and children have an American degree.

However, the days of increased enrollment of international students may be quickly coming to an end.

We know the storm is coming and here are the signs.

Six higher education associations commissioned a survey (International Applicants for Fall 2017-Institutional & Applicant Perceptions) to determine if the 2016 Presidential campaign and its anti-foreign tone would have a chilling effect on international student recruitment. The initial findings were published in early March 2017, with over 250 colleges reporting nearly 40% of the schools are reporting a decline in international student applications. The respondents report the decline is occurring because students and families are concerned student visas will be more difficult to obtain, the United States is no longer as welcoming to international students. and the increased concern for international student safety (see chart below). There is no doubt a storm is about to occur.

Survey on International students and fear

What can American higher education institutions do about the upcoming reduction in international students? Most universities have already implemented intense recruiting plans in the United States but according to a report by Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education the number of high school grads has stagnated and by 2022 will slowly decline. Non-traditional students and the expansion of distance-learning programs are also areas of expansion, but the market is highly competitive. The majority of students usually pay for the courses out of their own pocket. US students are becoming more reluctant to obtain large loans, and the proposed cutbacks in federal and state finance aid do not help the situation.

Some schools are attempting to attract students by upgrading their campuses, dorms, recreational facilities, and technology. These capital expenditures in some cases are being done via bonds and loans, which will be paid by increased tuition revenue. We have already seen a number of schools merge or close due to overwhelming debt. Finally, schools turn to reducing operating expenses, which likely means cutting faculty and staff. Continuous cutting seriously reduces the quality of the institution.

The economic impact of losing just 10-20% of the international student population would result in a loss of 3.28 to 6.56 billion dollars and a loss of 15,000 to 30,000 jobs. This could lead to an increase of closures and mergers. Government reports site at least 150 schools are in serious economic trouble. This number could easily double if universities do not address this issue of foreign student enrollment.

American colleges and universities need to re-visit and update their international strategic plans. An institutional audit is needed which gives the senior university cabinet officials a better grasp of the current situation, develop benchmark data, and create a plan that involves all of the stakeholders including the students.

According to the 2014 AIEA Senior International Officer (SIO) survey, their challenges were a lack of personnel/staffing, “buy-in” by faculty/administration, decentralization, balancing constituency demands, securing institutional commitment, and institutional leadership turnover. Institutions also need to re-enforce the concept to their community at large that International students mean more than just revenue. It gives American students and the community they live in the opportunity to learn more about outside cultures without solely relying on TV and social media. It enhances networking opportunities; students gain additional insight on how the world and business work in other nations, which one-day may mean finding a new business opportunity. It enhances the US student’s ability to find employment with firms who desire people with a broader international view. Perhaps the most compelling reason is it simply opens up a person’s eyes to the world of possibilities.

Many institutions state they have a goal to provide a global view to its students and the international students are important to their University. However, few President’s or Provosts have a clear plan to expand international enrollment or how to prevent losses. How much do they know about support and buy-in from faculty, staff, and trustees? Do they currently know how much support there is for international students from their local government officials and business leaders? If the university leadership does not clearly understand, how can they develop a credible plan to move forward?

Higher education institutions must take the magnitude of the coming storm seriously by conducting an evaluation of their institution for its strength and weaknesses seriously, make proper preparations and then aggressively move forward.

After all, Donald Trump and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make all their money in the United States. They understood there was a whole world to market to.

Dean Hoke is the Co-Founder of Edu Alliance Ltd. a higher education consulting firm with offices in Bloomington, Indiana and Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates.