October 15, 2017

Idea Lab: Colleges Solving Problems

A collection of some three dozen explorations of the problems colleges face, and how they are solving them. The articles include news, analysis, data, advice, and opinion.

Small liberal-arts colleges are doing more to get students thinking about what will happen once they pack away their caps and gowns.

Michigan State and other colleges teach faculty members how to explain why their work matters. That's key to getting lawmakers and a skeptical public to appreciate universities' contributions.

How to give more students opportunities in the lab or in the field — without breaking the bank.

Frustration over grading discrepancies inspired an experiment that is earning a community college national attention.

A national search with paid consultants has become the norm. But it's not the only way.

How colleges can create a sense of family and stability for students who have rarely ever had it.

Interested in quantifying the output of your academic departments? Here's how you might do it without alienating your faculty.

Bringing problems out into the open and promoting confidential reporting have helped lift the veil of secrecy that perpetuates abusive behavior.

How do colleges reach new students with the messages crucial to their safety and academic success?

Doctoral training hasn’t traditionally been concerned with whether future faculty members are good teachers. New programs are meant to change that.

One university's unconventional experiment has yielded encouraging results. So how come other colleges don't seem eager to try it?

One university hopes to narrow the performance gap by providing mentors for Latino undergraduates, who in turn mentor schoolchildren.

Building consensus requires finesse, strategy, and a little psychology.

Tips for the academic leader — and those who aspire to be one — on how to cultivate donors, ask for money, and land the big gift.

Quick change keeps programs current, but time is needed to ensure quality. The challenge: finding a way to have both.

How to assist professors through the post-tenure blues.

Colleges are making law, business,  and other career-focused programs  more interdisciplinary

To improve retention and help diversify the future professoriate, some colleges embrace formal mentoring programs.

As more students with young children enroll, colleges find ways to help them succeed.

Faculty members may plan to get a lot of work done over the break but often fall short of their expectations.

Dual-enrollment courses are growing in popularity as a way to encourage students to take the leap earlier. 


More private colleges want to collaborate to share costs and administrative responsibilities. But such coordination isn’t easy.

What philosophy departments can teach their peers in the humanities about surviving cuts and staying relevant.

A team-based approach to initial reviews  can often save time and may allow  for better evaluations

It’s the help students get outside the classroom  that often gets them through a course.

Elon University and other colleges experiment with ways to keep recent graduates engaged.

College leaders searching for transformative change must avoid  letting ambition — or caution — imperil their institution.

Serving on faculty panels is often seen as a thankless task, but colleges can make it more rewarding by agreeing on goals and spreading the work fairly.

Helping moms and dads help their first-generation students succeed


Ph.D.Colleges make curricular changes to better prepare humanities doctoral students for careers outside academe.

The top job has grown more demanding. Several college leaders offer their experience-based advice.

How colleges are retaining female undergraduates in engineering and computer science.

To build pools of potential leaders, colleges are trying to change the negative ways administrative roles are viewed, and give faculty structured opportunities to learn behind the scenes.

Antioch College and other small institutions rethink their real estate to generate revenue

How to help faculty members view retirement as an opportunity, not a threat.

Colleges are simplifying the steps from community college to four-year degree.

Landing a grant involves patience, persistence, and a lot of back and forth to hone an idea until it aligns with both sides’ missions and goals.

How to make big classes feel small

Endowed chairs and professorships are valuable currency that colleges use to recruit and retain top professors.