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Public-Private-Partnerships to Address Business Model Challenges

By Jim Tucker, Senior Fellow

The changing and challenging higher education business environment continues to have an impact on institutions across the country.  As a result, colleges and universities are increasingly turning to the private sector for help.  Public-private-partnerships (P3s), can convene and benefit all stakeholders. The private sector benefits from the unique resources and networking capabilities of institutions, while the private sector contains the expertise needed to facilitate the use of those resources.

To address today’s challenges, institutions are embracing these partnerships in new and innovative ways, such as:

  • Focusing college investments on modernization of academic and research facilities. 
  • Generating annual ground rents.
  • Shifting construction and operating risk to a developer with the property belonging to the institution at the end of the lease. 
  • Adding campus housing and amenities.
  • Adding high-quality housing, dining, and “third spaces” today’s students expect and desire, at no cost to the institution.
  • Fostering economic development.
  • Developing underutilized sites.
  • Adding dynamic new street-level retail along major corridors.

Institutions that embark upon public-private partnerships should identify their goals upfront, know their potential partners, and be sure that those partners are a good match for what they want to accomplish.  While not a panacea for the fiscal woes confronting many colleges and universities, such partnerships can be viable options to help increase resources and improve educational offerings.