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With comprehensive fees for a residential liberal arts education reaching or surpassing $50,000 per year, more and more people are asking the question: Is it really worth that much money to educate anybody, anywhere, at any time? Are the minds of ambitious, intellectually driven young people worth it?

We've all had that special sweater. The one that was comfortable, accommodating, and made us feel special. Then we snagged it on something. A little at a time, the hole got bigger as we kept wearing it, picking at the loose thread, snipping a bit here and a bit there. Soon the sweater was no longer wearable and we groused about how it had come apart as we threw it away.

To be or not to be? A college on the East Coast uses "The Place to Be!" as its tagline. And why not? Everyone has to be somewhere. But unless the school wishes to target modern-day Hamlets who haven't decided whether to be or not, it has zero impact.

Another popular tagline is "Start Here, Go Anywhere." It's too popular, in fact. Dozens of schools use that same slogan or a close derivation. When an institution's tagline is so generic as to be interchangeable among schools, it's a sure sign that coherent strategy has "gone elsewhere."

It is easy to communicate with constituents when you are talking about enrollment growth, a large financial gift, faculty accomplishments and new building projects. But what about when the going gets rough? What then? How do you share bad news with individuals, both internal and external, who are vested in your institution?

The economic crisis has dominated the headlines since September 2008 and taken its toll on individuals and institutions alike. Few have been immune to the effects of a volatile stock market, low interest rates, rising unemployment, tight credit markets, and plunging real estate values.

WHEN THE CEDAR RIVER CRESTED at over 19 feet in June 2008, hundreds of residents of Waverly, Iowa, were forced to evacuate their homes and seek shelter. The city, facing the most devastating natural disaster in the county’s history, found much needed support and assistance from Wartburg College.

THANKS TO THE CURRENT RECESSION and ensuing financial crises, higher ed leaders are looking where they have not looked before for the money needed to fulfill their missions. More and more institutions are discovering gold, sometimes lots of it, in their patent portfolios. Some examples:

NO ONE ENVIES YOU, DEAR READER. Higher ed administrators are seeing students with greater financial need and donors with shallower pockets and shorter arms. What are you and your fundraising folks to do in order to narrow that gap?

THE NEWS COMING OUT OF higher education these days can seem like an endless stream of updates on shrinking endowments, rising tuition costs, and across-the-board budget cuts. The recession is hitting higher education hard; it seems no one is being spared.

NEARLY 100 YEARS AGO, when North Carolina was still a largely agricultural state, North Carolina State University President Daniel Hill described its mission as developing students who can “skillfully and unhesitatingly lead the industrial progress of our people.” His comment speaks to NC State’s historical commitment to driving the state’s economic growth.

Today, with a bow to our school colors, we express that spirit in slightly different terms: “Red means go!”