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Marietta Forward

Marietta Forward is the college community’s strategic response to the pressures of the rapidly changing higher education landscape. To ensure that this historic college has a strong future for generations ahead, this is our aspirational plan for success. Marietta Forward is shaped by a careful consideration of the strengths of our College, the relevance and perceived value of our current offerings, and evolving marketplace opportunities.

Marietta Forward places — and keeps — every Marietta College student at the center of our educational enterprise. The principal drivers of this strategic plan are: 1) the quality (content, structure, relevance, and delivery) of the academic program; and 2) the quality of support offered to Marietta students across their college experience.

Before approving the plan, the College’s Board of Trustees was provided with a detailed projection of all investments required to support Marietta Forward. In October of 2023, the Board approved Marietta Forward as the strategic plan for Marietta College.

The Plan's Foundation

SI-1: Fully Implement the Student-Ready College.

The core organizing principle of Marietta Forward is an unyielding commitment to the success of every student enrolled. This plan creates the resource structure necessary to support today’s and tomorrow’s students throughout their Marietta education. Success metrics include increased rates of retention, persistence, and degree completion; development and implementation of effective programming; and evidence of increased student engagement.

SI-2: Strengthen Current Academic Programs.

Through Strategic Initiative 2, the College will ensure that we provide relevant academic programs of interest to a critical mass of college-going students, and reduce the number of and the expenses associated with low enrollment academic program offerings. This initiative will lead to the redistribution of resources to support new, high-demand programming and greater investments in current programs that require additional resources to maximize their enrollments. Success will be grounded in a current, and then ongoing, review of all academic offerings. Measurements will include both the relevance and desirability of programs as perceived by the college-going population and future employers while maintaining or enhancing program quality.

SI-3: Develop New Educational Programs focused on Non-Traditional Student Education and Workforce Development.

The lead objective of SI-3 is to generate and steadily increase net tuition revenues by building new programs for new populations. Through a new cost and revenue center – the Marietta College Division of Executive Education and Workforce Development – the College will increase its contributions to regional economic growth, contribute to workforce readiness, and serve the needs of a greater segment of the population. This new programming will leverage our position of excellence at the undergraduate and graduate levels of education and address the rising need for continuing education among non-traditional students. Measurements will include the launch of new offerings, student and employer participation, course and program completion, increased demand, and positive net revenue streams.

SI-4: Identify and Launch New Academic Programs.

In addressing the interests and ambitions of the next generation of learners, Marietta will generate new student enrollments and increase net tuition revenue at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. This will be achieved by 1) offering new, in-demand areas of study; 2) building the College’s reputation for delivering relevant and high-quality campus-based and online educational programming; and 3) improving student satisfaction, persistence, and graduation rates through an increase in perceived, and realized, educational value. Measurements will include establishing Marietta Online as a subdivision within Academic Affairs and launching new undergraduate and graduate programs.

SI-5 Create a campus culture of support for individual leadership, inclusion, and belonging. 

This objective is designed to strengthen the community and ensure greater student and employee success by providing a more welcoming, inclusive environment for individuals from all backgrounds and cultures. Tactics will increase student and employee persistence by encouraging greater engagement; increasing community-wide awareness of and appreciation for other cultures, beliefs, ideas, and backgrounds; and engendering a clear sense of belonging to and ownership of the Marietta experience. Results will include benchmarking (to the region) and evaluating annually the diversity of student and employee populations and measuring the community’s perception of the value of differences, equity, inclusion, and belonging.


Marietta Forward Documents

Marietta Forward, Marietta College's Strategic Plan (2024-28)
Marietta Forward, Strategic Plan Overview (2024-28)
Marietta Forward, KPIs
Student Ready College Report


What is Marietta Forward?

Marietta Forward is our community-created and Board-approved strategic plan.

The focus of this plan is the success of Marietta students. 

Marietta Forward includes five overarching strategic initiatives that will focus our efforts and shape our success over the next four years. Marietta Forward includes an ongoing evaluation of current academic programming, the expansion of programming for graduate and non-traditional learners, workforce development programming that serves the needs of regional businesses, and an expansion of offerings through online and certificate programs. New programming will complement current programming.

The plan also includes a significant expansion of critical support services that will help to assure the success of all Marietta College students.

Our goal is to significantly increase the sustainability of the College’s funding base (i.e. student revenues) through greater rates of degree completion and the generation of new enrollment-related revenue. We will redistribute our resources and create new means to support student success in relevant educational programs that are in demand.

This is the work of Marietta Forward. It is ambitious, but it can be done. Our students, and our college, deserve the investment of our effort and resources.

Are we changing Marietta's Mission?

We remain committed to the College’s mission. Our work to prepare informed citizens by providing a strong foundation for a lifetime of leadership, critical thinking, and problem-solving continues under Marietta Forward.

A productive and successful future will depend on the College’s ability to attract and retain tomorrow’s students. Students must be able to connect our programs to their personal and professional ambitions. We must, as a College, learn and adapt, just as we encourage our students to learn and adapt. We must change when change is the best way forward.

How will we know if Marietta Forward is a success?

Marietta Forward is a practical, actionable strategic plan focused on results. We will measure our success with Key Performance Indicators linked to each initiative. New revenue streams will support greater rates of degree completion and relevant programming for a wider array of learners: undergraduate and graduate, traditional and nontraditional, residential and online. These are the learners of the future.

Marietta Forward is our way to diversify the college’s revenues for a sustainable future. We must remain grounded even while being bold enough to think beyond our traditional programs and student support services.

How will we fund Marietta Forward?

Marietta Forward will be funded through a combination of resource reallocation, fundraising, and new revenue generation.

There are two sides to every budget equation: expense and revenue. This year we are undergoing a complete review and reduction of our expenses to “right-size” the College’s operating expenses so that these expenses can fully be supported by revenues. The actions outlined in Marietta Forward will alleviate current pressure on our operating budget by creating new, revenue-generating initiatives of interest to students, their families, and their future employers.

Operational budget reviews are part of this plan and will continue in the foreseeable future. The Academic Program Review, which resulted in the elimination of ten low enrollment/low growth/low completion academic programs, was a critical early part of Marietta Forward. This type of review — that measures the return on investment in programing — is expected to be an annual process in Marietta Forward.

At the same time, we are investing in the student experience, reallocating funds to build new initiatives, and seeking philanthropic investments to help bring all of these plans to life.

The Marietta College Board of Trustees has committed to raising the funds needed to support Marietta Forward.

Marietta has been able to depend on revenues from undergraduate, residential enrollments since its founding. Why do we need to diversify our revenue streams to include graduate and non-traditional students and online education?

Colleges and universities across the country are addressing significant financial deficits, cutting budgets, and paring or eliminating low-enrollment programs. Some colleges have chosen to merge, others have been forced to close. Every sector of higher education, every region of our country, is affected. The news is filled with examples of state and private college and university budget reduction efforts that range from the tens of millions to over $100M. The University of California state system – our nation’s largest – is confronting a staggering $1.5 billion deficit. In a report released on January 24, 2024, Doug Shapiro, Executive Director of The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center reported that “there are still over a million empty seats on campuses today that were filled five years ago.”

Traditional student enrollments have dropped at Marietta as well. Our Academic Program Review, as well as our recent efforts to “right-size” our operating budget to match incoming revenues, are essential steps, but will be insufficient in the long run. While we are far from alone in facing intense demographic and economic pressures, we also must acknowledge that operating with an unbalanced budget is unsustainable. Our thinking must shift, our goals must be well grounded, and our progress must be continually measured. We must bring Marietta Forward.

What is happening in higher education? What has changed?

External pressures faced by higher education are multifaceted and include:

  • the rising cost of doing business;
  • shrinking numbers of high school students, many of whom are not college-bound;
  • diminishing state and federal support for both students and their colleges;
  • the skyrocketing need for financial assistance among students and their families; and 
  • the downstream effects of a pandemic that exacerbated these and many other problems. 

Marietta Forward is our roadmap for success. We are reaching into new markets, building new programs and modes of educating, developing new sources of revenue, and recommitting to student success.

With so much change in higher education, why expand program offerings now? How will this change be managed?

As noted above, while rightsizing the operating budget is essential, it is not enough to ensure our long-term future. Higher education is facing a complex set of long-term challenges. Our solutions must be strategic and flexible. We must add programs that are seen as relevant and a pathway to the careers envisioned by our students. Marietta Forward guides the College in three equally important ways:

  1. Reduce and reallocate: We have completed the Academic Program Review. We are now making decisions on right-sizing our current budget. Program expansion decisions related to Marietta Forward will ensure that our resources are used wisely and invested where they are most needed. In some instances, we may reduce funding in one program to reinvest in another. 
  2. Plan and implement: Decisions must be clear, consistent, and purposeful. Marietta Forward is our guide, our strategic plan. The initiatives in Marietta Forward will be our priorities for investment over the next three to four years. 
  3. Innovate and expand: We must increase revenues to support sustainable growth. Success will mean anticipating and meeting the needs of a more broadly defined pool of prospective students and preparing this range of students for careers and lives of change. As a Student Ready College, we need to meet each student where they are now, support them, and then inspire them to move forward into their career.
Marietta Forward seems to focus on academics. Why?

At Marietta College, we educate in many ways, but our academic programs remain at the center of our learning enterprise. High-quality programs that are in high demand are essential to our success. We have just completed a careful review of Marietta’s programs of study (i.e., the APR) and we are adjusting our program offerings now to match our instructional expenses to our revenues. This work will continue with Marietta Forward.

We are also reviewing opportunities for revenue growth through a wider array of academic areas of study that serve the needs of both traditional and non-traditional students. For example, we are asking: How can we create and strengthen the most impactful and relevant academic offerings? How can we best prepare our students for their future? How can we expand our definition of “student” to meet the needs of more learners? How can we invest and/or reallocate resources to make Marietta, our students, and our graduates even more competitive?

Every decision in Marietta Forward is driven by our commitment to students and our determination to diversify and strengthen our revenue streams for long-term sustainability.

How will this new direction impact programs and jobs at the College?

Marietta Forward includes a continuous evaluation of our progress against goals. We must be disciplined in both measuring our progress and adjusting as we strengthen the College’s position in this ever-shifting higher education environment. As we develop new programs and initiatives, current staff will be encouraged to apply for new opportunities and grow professionally. New specialists will likely also be hired to join our community. Likewise, as programs are eliminated, there may be a reduction in associated faculty and/or staff.

Will the campus be changed as part of Marietta Forward?

We are evaluating investments in and the efficiency of the College’s physical plant. Every space will be used to maximum effect for the students and their support. For example, if we can save money and natural resources by closing an underused residence hall, then we will consider this.

Athletics is not specifically mentioned in Marietta Forward. Why is that?

Marietta is fortunate to have a thriving program of both men’s and women’s sports. Many students are drawn to Marietta because of the strength of the athletic program. While athletics are an important asset, at this time, we do not anticipate any expansion of the program as part of Marietta Forward.

If we eliminate a major area of study through our continued evaluations, does that mean the end of all related classes at Marietta?

Not at all. The number of students majoring in a particular discipline is one important criterion in evaluating that program’s viability. Another is the role that specific classes play in ensuring that our students benefit from a broad, as well as deep education. We have instituted an ongoing academic program review that includes an analysis of the staffing and funding levels a program will need to remain a major and/or minor vs. contributing to the General Curriculum. The integrity of our curriculum is vitally important. The faculty Curriculum Committee will be involved in these important discussions.

Are budgets being cut to fund Marietta Forward?

No, we’re not cutting any budgets specifically to fund Marietta Forward. In the short term, Marietta Forward will be funded through fundraising led by the Board of Trustees. However, we are carefully examining all of our current expenses to ensure that these expenses can be funded by our current revenues. Adjustments that we make to our FY24 spending will not be made to fund Marietta Forward.

It is our obligation to ensure that each dollar spent by the College yields the greatest return for our students.

I don't see Greek Life specifically mentioned in the plan. Will the Greek system continue?

Greek Life at Marietta has a strong history and will continue. While there are no new initiatives in the Marietta Forward plan, the College remains committed to fostering a safe and supportive environment for Greek chapters to thrive and grow.