May 1, 2024

An Industry in Search of Silver Bullets

I’ve often said that the private school and college industry has dodged many bullets in the past.  Bloated expense structures, high prices, confusing approaches to financial aid, and inflexible delivery options have often added up to many schools and colleges scratching their heads as their enrollment declines.

Environmental threats – such as the 911 terrorist attacks, the global economic reset in 2008 and the pandemic in 2020 – have been actual existential threats to the industry. And, each has demonstrated both how 1) resistant to change and yet 2) resilient to threat the industry can be as it considers how to address the future.

Honestly, if it is not your first rodeo, you can clearly see the following:

Every decade or so, private schools and colleges seek new answers to old problems and, yet, emerge with little creativity in their solutions.  They merely look for silver bullets. 

If you have ever been in a conversation with the board member that exclaims “if we could only tell our story better, we would achieve capacity enrollment with all full pay students” you then understand the dilemma. Our industry has been seeking silver bullets — one size fits all – as solutions to structural challenges that require creative, distinct answers, not blunt instruments.

The next two weeks we will share some of the most common silver bullets that the industry has tried in order to sustain itself against existential threats.  I hope you will join us for the Silver Bullet series and maybe, just maybe, find some humor in our lack of creativity.


  1. Don Clarke on May 13, 2024 at 6:52 pm


    This is wise. Your words challenge an industry that has experienced success and blindly see themselves doing so with a history of success and yet the future may not be the atmosphere for that success.

    So tough..

    • Ian Symmonds on May 13, 2024 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks Don. The future will require more from the industry. Miss you buddy!

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