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How to Run a College

How to Run a College: A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators, and Policymakers

by Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King



Residential colleges are the foundation on which US higher education is based. These institutions possess storied traditions fondly cherished by students, alumni, and faculty. There is no denying, however, that all colleges today struggle with changing consumer preferences, high sticker prices, and aging infrastructure. Technological and pedagogical alternatives—not to mention growing political pressure—present complex challenges. What can colleges and smaller universities do to stay relevant in today’s educational and economic climate?

In their concise guide, How to Run a College, Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King analyze how colleges operate. Widely experienced as trustees, administrators, and faculty, they understand that colleges must update their practices, monetize their assets, and focus on core educational strategies in order to build strong institutions.

Mitchell and King offer a frank yet optimistic vision for how colleges can change without losing their fundamental strengths. To survive and become sustainable, they must be centers of dynamic learning, as well as economic engines able to power regional, state, and national economies. Rejecting the notion that American colleges are holdovers from a bygone time, How to Run a College shows instead that they are centers of experimentation and innovation that heavily influence higher education not only in the United States but also worldwide.

Brian C. Mitchell is a principal in Academic Innovators. He is the past president of Bucknell University and Washington & Jefferson College. W. Joseph King is the president of Lyon College. He is the former executive director of the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education and Rice University’s Connexions.



What others are saying:


"Breakthrough books on higher education will enable you to see your institution in the larger, and more ominous, context of higher education's challenges. About trusteeship itself, turn to How to Run a College by Mitchell and King."

Wall Street Journal

"Mitchell and King argue for colleges and universities to evolve, modernizing practices and monetizing assets. They examine major elements of college operations: governance, finance, enrollment advancement, academic affairs, student life and athletics."

Inside Higher Ed

"Mitchell and King have mined the latest data and case studies to help new, experienced, and future college and university presidents be successful leaders of their institutions and supporters of their students."

Richard Ekman, President, The Council of Independent Colleges


"This fine book offers a full, balanced, and informed overview of American higher education. Indulging in neither denial nor fantasy, it lays out a concrete and common-sense strategy that promises a way forward. Everyone involved in running a college, from the president and trustees to faculty and alumni, would benefit from reading, and studying, How to Run a College."

Edward L. Ayers, President Emeritus, University of Richmond, and Weinstein International Center


"Mitchell and King have given us an eminently practical and proactive guide to running a college. Drawing on observation, experience, and current research, they offer useful suggestions for change in order to help us 'imagine the possible.' With appropriate detail and perspicacity, they identify the interface where 'creativity and innovation meet management and process' and argue that this is 'where the future of higher education is born.' Let us make it so."

Carol S. Long, Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, Willamette University


"How to Run a College is a refreshingly direct, highly readable, and timely critique that provides equal doses of diagnosis and prescription. Mitchell and King’s sound and balanced analyses of the challenges facing higher education are by turns insightful, provocative, and creative. There is nothing rose-tinted or apocalyptic about their scan of the higher education environment, just good common sense, wisdom and the clear compelling message that colleges and universities must have the courage to lead if they are to remain engines of social progress and intergenerational mobility."

Eugene M. Tobin, Senior Program Officer in Higher Education and Scholarship in the Humanities, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


"Mitchell and King offer compelling insights into the growing complexities of academic leadership. They charge presidents with exercising the moral courage necessary to ensure that colleges and universities will continue to fulfill our nation’s historic mission of educating for democracy. Their detailed analysis of challenges faced by institutions results in pragmatic and innovative solutions for strengthening access to excellence and equity in higher education."

Lynn Pasquerella, President, Association of American Colleges & Universities