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SWOT Analysis (March 2009)


  • Clear mission: Undergraduate education
  • High retention/graduation rate
  • Commitment to student learning and integration of curricular and cocurricular programs 
  • Central Curriculum/cross-cultural initiative 
  • Curricular mix of liberal arts and professional programs 
  • AACSB-accredited Sigmund Weis School of Business 
  • Active & Collaborative Learning (NSSE) 
  • Emphasis on assessment 
  • Joint student/faculty attendance at professional conferences 
  • Outcomes are strong: 
    • High placement rate for employment 
    • High placement rate for graduate school 
  • Well-funded professional development 
  • Membership in academically centered athletic conferences (Landmark and Centennial) 
  • Welcoming community 
  • Beautiful campus and outstanding residence halls 
  • Campus goodwill and commitment to new strategic initiatives 
  • Board leadership 
  • High level of cash on hand 
  • Conservative debt structure


  • Perceived geographical isolation 
  • Academic profile and size of applicant pool 
  • High student-faculty ratio 
  • Lack of diversity of student body and staff 
  • Student engagement in enriching educational experiences (NSSE) 
  • Lack of student outcomes data 
  • Underfunded career services function 
  • Small numbers of alumni 
  • Percentage of alumni who give to SU 
  • Total annual giving 
  • Size of endowment/high tuition dependence 
  • Ability to fund capital needs 
  • Pressure on operating margin: 
    • Strategic initiatives add operating costs 
    • $75M+ capital investments increase debt service and depreciation 
    • Modest enrollment growth replaces past decade of significant growth 
  • Leveraged financial statement 
    • Relatively significant amount of debt 
    • Little capacity for additional debt at our credit rating


  • College degree increasingly necessary in job markets 
  • Ability to hire outstanding faculty in a down market 
  • Focus on sustainability and environmental consciousness 
  • Emphasis on assessment as opportunity to demonstrate value added 
  • Interest in research on student learning and its impact on the educational environment 
  • Business survey course for liberal arts majors 
  • Athletics recruitment and reputation 
  • Small college aura/safety of campus 
  • Some competitors are gutting program to balance budgets 
  • Our price point is moderate “Goldilocks pricing” 
  • Potential for government funding 
  • Electronic communications offer increasingly effective and efficient ways of communicating with primary audiences


  • International/national economic crisis 
    • Tightened credit market 
    • Increasing price sensitivity 
  • Increasing competition for fewer philanthropic dollars 
  • Price ceilings 
    • Decreasing wealth, stagnant salaries, lack of inflation/deflation 
  • Access: inability of students and families to pay 
  • Increasing student debt loads 
  • Tumult in the student loan market 
  • Declining federal/state educational support 
  • Fierce admissions competition from stronger, wealthier set of competitors, in addition to traditional competitors 
  • Increasing student interest in large, urban universities 
  • Lack of public appreciation for the liberal arts; students and families focused on career preparation 
  • Reputational decline due to perceived sense of pricing arrogance 
  • Projected decline in northeastern demographics 
  • Demographic growth mostly in areas and populations that are not our recruiting strengths

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