McHarvard: The Future of College Brands?

Tim Goral's picture
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

People often compare the higher education and health care markets. Both are widely dispersed industries with local, regional, and national entities. Both have seen dramatic cost increases in preceding decades. And, to some degree, this cost escalation has been fueled in part by third-party payers: insurance companies for healthcare, and easy government loans for higher ed.

Another common area is branding. In both fields, there are a few national, high-prestige brands that relatively few people can access – the Mayo Clinic and Harvard, for example. The most renowned institutions in both categories serve a national and even global market, but none have expanded in a big way to leverage the strength of their brand.

In particular, elite colleges and universities have typically limited enrollment even as demand has increased. The most selective schools in the US could easily double their enrollment while maintaining exceptionally high standards, but the costs of greatly expanding campuses and faculty would almost certainly exceed incremental revenues. And, of course, the brands might suffer at the same time as entry became marginally easier.

Still, both universities and hospitals have occasionally added additional campuses to offer greater access. The Mayo operates facilities in Florida and Arizona in addition to its flagship Minnesota location. Yale has a campus in Singapore, while Carnegie-Mellon has one in Silicon Valley.

Now, a new initiative by the Cleveland Clinic may be pointing the way for big-brand universities to leverage their name and expertise.

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