Explore The Thriving Framework®

We view institutional health through the lens of these Foundational elements.

Through years of higher education consulting and hundreds of strategy discussions with college and university presidents, Credo’s team saw patterns emerge in both the struggles and accomplishments of the schools they served. Over time, several elements emerged as key drivers for success at those institutions, and became The Thriving Framework® .

As Credo's team presents to leadership teams and higher education professionals and in working with campuses, over time the Framework has evolved to meet the modern educational landscape and provide insight into the future. Credo examines how we see each of the elements being lived out on thriving college and university campuses across the country, offering strategic and practical examples of best practice. 

  • Courageous & Collaborative Leadership

    In higher education, the term leadership goes well beyond the position of president. Three crucial areas for successful leadership reside in leadership teams, the role of the board of trustees, and the courage of strong leaders to stay. While strategy, credentials, intellect, and communication skills will determine the value of the position of president, the ability to balance people and tasks in decision-making are at the center of success and courageous leadership. Leaders at thriving colleges and universities not only develop sound strategies, they make the necessary investments in the right implementers and motivators.

  • Vision

    What would you like the headlines to be 10 years from now when people write about your institution? In order to be clear, relevant, and inspiring to all of your constituencies, you need three specific guides. Simply put, these guides come in the form of a mission statement (what you do), a set of core values (why you do what you do), and a vision statement (where you are going). The unity and connection between these guides is apparent and at the center of all initiatives at thriving institutions.

  • Institutional Self-Esteem

    Institutional self-esteem is that feeling that shows up on college campuses as excitement and motivation. Thriving colleges are paying attention to seven key building blocks of pride that make institutional self-esteem possible, and even inevitable. From embracing the students you have to visibly reinvesting in people, places, and programs, strong institutional self-esteem is necessary to innovate and mobilize for success.

  • Institutional Story

    The urgency of telling your institutional story well has never been more important. Families will only sacrifice for this investment if your value proposition is strong and your messages are clear and targeted enough to carry it to the right people at the right time. Market research can uncover the most compelling elements of your value proposition, help define your brand, and determine the most effective messages and outcome stories. Thriving institutions have centralized their marketing departments and prioritized initiatives around recruiting and retaining students, resulting in a focused and efficient return on their marketing investment.

  • Habit of Reflection & Intentionality

    The amount of data collected in higher education can be overwhelming. In order to thrive, institutions need to create space for reflection on what the data is telling them. Once it is interpreted, thriving colleges are intentional about using it effectively. They keep track of metrics that are directly connected with campus strategy, define them clearly, and act with corrective measures so they can continually improve. Thriving institutions also take the time to celebrate when metrics show positive momentum.

  • Culture of Planning & Innovation

    There's a new normal. Accrediting agencies, your constituencies, and the government are all calling for clarity, alignment, agility, transparency, accountability, and increased revenue and contained costs. As a result, strategic planning is often messy, but absolutely necessary in higher education. Thriving colleges are able to generate excitement and ideas, and refine them until they are focused on the four or five themes and projects that will make the most difference in sustainability for the future. Their plans are living, and leaders pay special attention to connecting the dots and communicating with the campus community after each planning session. The result is a clear picture of continually improving processes that are more efficient, collaborative, and transparent.

  • Net Revenue & Strategic Finance

    Execution of your mission and vision depends on the financial health of your institution. More often than not, colleges and universities depend on lagging indicators. In order to be accountable and responsible, your leadership team needs to set forwarding-looking monthly goals and gain a clear understanding of what needs to be done if they are not met. Thriving institutions understand that they can no longer manage the journey of a large number of students in traditional ways. They implement innovative and intentional strategies that allow them to build their classes, pursue alternative revenue streams, and reinvest dollars back into learning through honing academic efficiency.

  • Student Learning & Success

    Today's students must attack and embrace the difficulties they face in life and learning in order to succeed in the global marketplace of the 21st century. For this reason, colleges and universities must focus on retaining students with a passion. Thriving institutions teach well the students they have and build a comprehensive solution. They know it takes investment, innovation, and the ability to meet students exactly where they are and bring them to their highest potential. Thriving colleges engage in a collaborative process involving multiple departments, demand institutional affirmation, and empower strong student success leaders on their campuses.

  • Transformative Environments

    Your campus environment is pivotal to your success as a thriving college. Parents and students are demanding an atmosphere that is attractive, well kept, inviting, and high tech. Thriving institutions go beyond the blueprint and ask: are our spaces and places serving our mission, vision, and values? They put students at the center of everything they do, and have intentional alignment of space and mission. Thoughtful renovation and new construction result in spaces that facilitate brainstorming and conversation, reflect 21st century teaching and learning methods, and add gathering spaces that promote experiential learning and faculty/student interaction.

What makes an institution Thrive?

Download these case studies featuring 3 thriving institutions and their pivots towards success.

"Thriving Institutions: New lessons from Research and Practice" is a collection of the stories of 3 different thriving institutions. Their common themes are how they embraced their missions and campus cultures while building partnerships to pivot towards student & institutional success. Find out more by downloading these case studies, presented at the CIC Presidents Institute, 2020.