The State of Higher Ed Strategic Technology Planning

In 2020, Apogee analyzed 491 college and university strategic plans to understand the state of strategic planning in the pre-COVID-19 world.

Our goal is to help institutions make data-driven planning decisions, tie their initiatives to technology strategies, and ensure higher education emerges from the crises stronger than before. We focused primarily on campuses with less than 5,000 students but included a healthy representation of larger institutions to reference and compare strategic visions for a 70/30 split.

Compare My Campus Talk With A Specialist

What You'll Learn:

Colleges and universities of every size have sought to shift the pedagogical experience toward remote or online modalities.

The industry is not technologically prepared for a rapid and dramatic shift to blended learning.

Rightsizing offers colleges and universities their best chance to uncover their differentiating value and attract and retain new students.

Compare Campuses

< 1,500

71% of the strategic plans we studied began after 2015.
81% have planned end dates in 2020 or after.

The need to revisit and engage in strategic planning is now accelerated. Start planning now by benchmarking against your peers.


Though larger institutions have the innate advantages of more personnel and funding, we believe all institutions – especially smaller ones – need to double-down on technology strategic planning to not only push through the current crisis, but to come out stronger on the other side.


Goal setting and strategic planning must include aggressive technology planning. This is necessary to support the nation’s demand for educational ROI that will drive equality and prosperity now and in the future.

Technology Preparedness
Is Essential

Technology preparedness is essential and a critical component of several of the initiatives that inform an institution’s strategic plan. Student Outcomes, Pedagogy, Student Life, and Planning & Governance all rely on an underpinning of technology to drive or enable them. While campuses actively invest time, energy, and money into these initiatives, our study found that many fail to supply the explicit focus on technology that would drive these initiatives forward at a rate commensurate with their importance to future success, stability, and resilience.

Areas of Initiative and the
Role of Technology

Student Outcomes Student Life Funding, Planning & Governance Student Population Pedagogy Other

Only 66% of campuses explicitly called out technology initiatives in their strategic plans. Forced to move the bulk of their classes online overnight in March 2020 and again in August/September 2020 in response to the current public health crisis, a majority of institutions were ill-equipped to do so in a way that could yield a meaningful outcome. This approach is proving unsustainable as student educational experience and ROI demands return to their pre-COVID state.

While pedagogical initiatives increased from 76% prior to 2015 to 83% afterward, technology initiatives declined over the same period, dropping from 71% to 64%.

The Gap Between Pedagogy And Technology Widened Over Time While the increase in pedagogy since 2015 aligns with the increase in remote learning adoption, the inverse technology investment relationship suggests schools are unprepared for a future of blended, multimodal learning.

Areas of Initiative and the
Plan Creation Timeframe

Student Outcomes Student Life Funding, Planning & Governance Student Population Pedagogy Other

When pre-2015 plans are broken down by school size, the disparity comes into sharp focus. Even when strategy embraced technology during those years, it was usually larger schools that budgeted for technological growth and infrastructure.

Small schools (those with less than 5000 students enrolled) trail larger schools in the ratio of technology investment to pedagogy investment by 28 points. Competing with large or state-funded universities means thinking critically about ways to differentiate and reinvesting in the technologies that support blended learning will be critical.

Strategic Planning

As blended learning moves to the forefront, the role of IT is rapidly evolving from cost center to key contributor in the pursuit of enrollment, retention, persistence, and outcomes. CFOs must balance the current financial constraints with the need to fund innovation that will drive student outcomes and educational ROI. Your institution’s capacity to rightsize — to disinvest in time and resource-hogging operational headaches and reinvest in the infrastructure and technologies that enable blended learning — is core to achieving your strategic vision and goals.