Higher education is the new healthcare—parents, students, politicians and the media question whether the cost justifies the results. As President J. Bradley Creed of Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC, notes in “Creating Pathways to Opportunity and Service,” the latest chapter in Sodexo’s President to President series, most people agree on the need for higher education following high school, but confidence that a college degree can advance one’s career and lead to a better life is eroding.
Ultimately, colleges and universities are brands. The most successful have a strong reputation and a mission that gives their students a raison d’être, a sense of purpose. When students understand and embrace the college’s mission, their commitment to their education is enhanced.
Dr. Creed leads a historic university that traces its roots to the era following the Civil War, when newly created colleges opened doors to a better life while championing high ideals of leadership and service to others. Through Campbell University’s evolution from academy to junior college to college and then university, three central missions guided the institution:
- Creating pathways to opportunity,
- Maintaining a focus on service, and
- Developing a market-responsive approach to curriculum
Each of these elements helped Campbell University students, many of whom were first-generation, achieve success both academically and professionally. Generations of Campbell graduates are now working in towns throughout the surrounding region as lawyers, teachers, engineers, physicians and more. They have indeed achieved upward mobility and a better life.
Clearly, these results belie the belief that the value of a college education is declining. In fact, it is not declining but becoming table stakes. The days when a college degree was a guaranteed ticket to a better life are long gone. Success is far more dependent on whether students have a clear objective instead of a vague notion of what they want to achieve in life after college. Given that the numbers of non-traditional and first-generation students are increasing, Campbell University’s mission-based approach could serve as a blueprint for many colleges and universities, informing their strategies regarding marketing, recruitment and curriculum and ultimately improving outcomes and quality of life.
Jim Jenkins is CEO of Universities East for Sodexo North America where he oversees more than 400 college and university partnerships. With $9.3 billion in annual revenues in the U.S. and Canada, Sodexo’s 133,000 employees provide more than 100 unique services that increase performance at 9,000 client sites and improve Quality of Life for 15 million consumers every day.