Re-imagining a Higher Education Business Model

What if a 165 year-old college could behave like a startup to re-imagine the possibilities and needs of higher education?

What possibilities does that open for institutions across the nation struggling to provide value to their students and other stakeholders? The operating system for American higher education is broken. Good alternative models that make institutions viable both educationally and financially have yet to emerge and disrupt the space. The need is urgent and the opportunity great to co-create models with all stakeholders involved in a college or university. Antioch College recognized that opportunity and sought to shift their business model to accomplish five goals:

Goal 1. Prepare graduates to lead and serve in their professions and communities through excellent academic programs
 that exemplify experiential learning, social engagement, professional preparation and global citizenship.

Goal 2. Improve access and success for students who manage multiple responsibilities of school, work, family and service.

Goal 3. Promote inclusion, justice, and sustainability, in order to live our values.

Goal 4. Become a fully integrated University to maximize sustainability and prosperity.

Goal 5. Expand financial, human, physical, and information resources for long-term sustainability and overall effectiveness.

Design Challenge

How might Antioch College leverage its experiences, assets, and capabilities to create value for students and the community and a new sustainable business model for small liberal arts colleges?


For Antioch College to achieve its vision as a laboratory for applied education capable of more fully integrating its curricular assets we had to dive deeper into what integration meant and how it could actually work. In order to develop actionable solutions to deliver their expected results, we co-facilitated a Design-Build process that engaged the entire community–students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni and community members in a process–to create a new platform for undergraduate education. The Design-Build was phase two of a comprehensive plan to reinvigorate Antioch’s model. The plan, Framework for Antioch College’s Transition (FACT), required participants to shift their lens and imagine new possibilities that leveraged Antioch’s unique assets.

Within each asset, participants constructed “Solution Blocks” to identify specific ideas, goals, strategies, and metrics to:

- Tie the asset into the curriculum

- Activate and extend the Antioch College’s networks and partnerships

- Increase funding and philanthropy

- Track milestones and share progress

- Enhance the student experience

​From these actionable strategies, Antioch’s entrepreneurial leadership had a roadmap for implementing a co-designed business model that more fully served its stakeholders.

Impact Statement

Higher education institutions’ ability to reinvent themselves will be crucial as shifts in the landscape continue to impact practice and pedagogy. This process not only benefitted the Antioch community but has potential to transform the field of higher education to impact the broader society.