2021 State of Higher Ed Strategic Technology Planning

Strategic planning must be a priority for higher education.

Since 2020, Apogee has read and analyzed 839 higher ed strategic plans to understand the state of higher ed strategic technology planning. As of October 1, 2021, only 500 institutions out of the 839 had an active strategic plan. This interactive report details the findings of these 500 active plans.

At Apogee, our goal is to help institutions make data-driven planning decisions and tie their initiatives to technology strategies. Higher ed has weathered a strong storm during the COVID-19 pandemic, and another storm looms on the horizon - the 2025 enrollment cliff. We believe that strategic planning is of paramount importance to ensure that higher education emerges from the pandemic stronger than before, with resilience to tackle the challenges that are certainly ahead.

This interactive report focuses primarily on campuses with less than 5000 students but includes a healthy representation of larger institutions to reference and compare strategic visions, for a 65/35 split.

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What You'll Learn:

Colleges and universities of every size have embraced and added online modalities, by necessity and to respond to demand.

Higher ed is not technologically prepared for the growth in blended learning modalities.

Closing the pedagogy/technology investment gap is urgent to attract students of all ages and backgrounds.

Compare Campuses

< 1,500
1,500-4,999
5,000+

73% of the strategic plans we studied were in place
before the COVID-19 pandemic began.

96% have planned end dates at the end of 2021 or after.

All higher ed institutions need to be prioritizing strategic planning NOW. This report is designed to help you by enabling you to benchmark against your peers.

Double-
Down

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.

Aggressive
Planning

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 and 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

Only 62% of plans explicitly called out technology initiatives. Forced to move the bulk of their classes online overnight in March 2020, again in Fall 2020, and sporadically again in 2021 in response to the pandemic, 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 now returned to their pre-COVID state in Fall 2021.

While pedagogical initiatives in the plans increased from 79% for plans created in 2014 and earlier to 86% for those created in 2015 or later, technology initiatives vary over the same period. Technology initiatives dropped from 66% in 2014 and earlier plans to 60% in plans created from 2015 to 2019 before jumping back up to 64% for plans created in 2020 or after. Again, the majority of institutions in this study have strategic plans that were created between 2015 and 2019, meaning that institutions with plans created before 2020 likely face a larger technology gap due to COVID-19.

The Gap Between Pedagogy And Technology Widened Over Time In 2020, our study of 491 institutional strategic plans revealed a big gap between pedagogy and technology initiatives. The gap has widened, likely due to the upcoming expiration of plans at the end of 2021. When strategic plans are broken down by school size, the disparity comes into even sharper focus: larger schools document their plans for technological growth and infrastructure.

Areas of Initiative and the
Plan Creation Timeframe

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

Smaller schools with less than 5000 students enrolled trail larger schools in the ratio of technology investment to pedagogy investment by 11 points. Competing for students with large universities means thinking critically about ways to differentiate. Investing in the technologies that support blended learning and the student experience will be critical.

In plans created in 2020-2021, we find that the pedagogy/technology gap grew, with smaller institutions 13 percentage points behind larger ones in developing strategic plans that include technology.

The role of IT is rapidly evolving from cost center to key contributor in the pursuit of student 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 modernize is dependent on disinvesting in time and resource-hogging operational tasks and reinvesting in the infrastructure and technologies that enable student outcomes.

Rethink
Strategic Planning