Institutions are facing an intense amount of pressure these days. With low graduation rates, increasing tuition costs and employer dissatisfaction, more people are questioning whether a pricey four-year institution is worth the financial investment.

If these weren’t significant challenges in themselves, institutions are also dealing with competition from other types of educational models. A growing number of students are earning credits and hands-on experience from community colleges and online programs.

Despite these hardships, colleges and universities look forward to change. Even in the darkest days, opportunity awaits, and that’s exactly the mindset your institution needs to have. Rather than focusing on all of the things against traditional four-year colleges, pay attention to how your institution can adapt.

Let’s look at some of the most effective ways that your institution can rise to the top even in a rapidly changing environment.

Exploratory Majors

There’s been a lot of talk about exploratory majors, otherwise known as guided pathways, verticals or crosswalks. With this type of program, the major the student has chosen is their main focus. This means fewer electives and gen ed courses and more intentional curricula with an easy transfer of credits.

The benefit to exploratory majors is that students have a much more direct path to getting a degree. The process is transparent and streamlined, and credits won’t be lost if students decide to transfer from one program to another.

Hands-On Learning

Part of the reason why today’s employers are dissatisfied is because candidates lack practical skills. College curriculums focus on attending lecture halls and participating in discussions, but employers want more. Unfortunately, high-impact learning experiences – mentored research, internships, service learning – count very little toward graduation.

Institutions that successfully integrate the curricular and the co-curricular will produce better candidates and survive the changes taking place. Of course, to make this model of learning work, institutions will need faculty that are willing to teach in these learning environments.

Stackable Credentials

It’s unfortunate that a student who attends college for three years walks away with nothing. With stackable credentials, there are more milestones for students to hit, allowing students to obtain professional or academic certificates, badges, micro-masters or specializations.

Not only could these credentials help institutions boost their image with better statistics, but also students would have something to gain by sticking around, even if they don’t make it to the finish line. However, at this time, stackable credentials don’t have any value in the marketplace.

Multiple Locations

Traditional colleges are embedded in the town they were created in. As great as it is to have this “home”, it can be limiting. That’s why a new model is taking shape, and it involves a campus that has multiple educational institutions.

Medical hospitals have been using this model for some time. They may have multiple medical centers, laboratories, research facilities, training centers and more. Each building is tied to one name and one presence. This model can work well for colleges that want to distinguish themselves in a competitive economy and reach more students.

Institutions that aren’t afraid of change will prosper. Opportunities await. You just need to know which one to take advantage of.