Counteracting the Commoditization of Higher Education

ARAMARK's Leadership Series Offers Insights from College and University Presidents

Aug 27, 2012, 08:00 ET from ARAMARK

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- ARAMARK, a leader in providing professional services to colleges and universities across North America, is pleased to announce the 2012-2013 release of Presidential Perspectives. Now in its seventh year, Presidential Perspectives is a collection of 10 thought provoking chapter essays authored by college and university presidents.  This compelling leadership series examines topics impacting today's higher education institutions. The theme of this year's Presidential Perspectives series, "Responding to the Commoditization of Higher Education," examines the changing perceptions of higher education and the struggle among higher learning institutions to differentiate their offerings while competing in a market that presents higher education degrees as items to be purchased.

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"The higher education-as-a-commodity mentality is increasingly omnipresent, with advertising saturating virtually every medium of our daily existence, permeating the Internet, social media outlets, and especially college campuses," explains Dr. Muriel A. Howard, President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and author of the series' forward. "Among the promises sent to prospective students is a guarantee that they can finish college in four years or less and when they graduate they will be gainfully employed." 

Today's colleges and universities, already impacted by a challenging financial environment, must promote their unique academic offerings to potential students who are seeking online degrees and accelerated programs as well as those students who are attending a community college before applying to a four-year institution.

The first chapter essay of the series, entitled "Against the Windmills: The Commoditization of Higher Education," and authored by F. Javier Cevallos, President of Kutztown University, asserts that while many factors have impacted higher education including a reliance on increased technology and dwindling state and federal resources, institutions must adapt to fit students' needs in order remain viable and differentiate their academic offerings.  

"The great challenge is to find what makes us different, and how we can market our uniqueness.  At least for the foreseeable future, there will always be a role for our traditional universities.  High school graduates will continue to attend our campuses, live in our residence halls, participate in campus life, and more importantly, open their minds to the benefits of a college education," explains Cevallos.  "But the number of traditional students will continue to dwindle, as more students will transition from Community Colleges, return to school after serving in the Military, or just decide to enroll on a part time basis.  And both traditional and non-traditional students will look at us and expect that we will adapt to their needs, not the other way around."

Additional topical essays featured in the Presidential Perspectives series focus on the commoditization of higher education and include developing and defining value propositions, implementing niche marketing, maintaining differentiation in a changing market and more.

"The commoditization of higher education impacts all higher education institutions and may significantly affect the way in which colleges and universities attract students," said  Dr. Scott D. Miller, president of Bethany College, who along with Marylouise Fennell, senior counsel for the Council of Independent Colleges and past president of Carlow University, serve as executive editors of Presidential Perspectives.  "This thoughtful leadership series aims to address the strategies being employed in higher education to counteract fundamental changes in the academic environment."

Contributing thought leaders for this year's Presidential Perspectives include:

  • Muriel A. Howard, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • F. Javier Cevallos, Kutztown University
  • Andrew P. Roth, Notre Dame College
  • James Barker, Clemson University
  • Wilson G. Bradshaw, Florida Gulf Coast University
  • Michael MacDowell, Misericordia University
  • Jake B. Schrum, Southwestern University
  • Doug Whitlock, Eastern Kentucky University
  • Dana Gibson, Sam Houston State University
  • Eric Gilbertson, Saginaw Valley State University
  • Brian Noland, East Tennessee State University

Beginning in September, one chapter essay of Presidential Perspectives will be released each month, with the series culminating in June 2013.  Current and past chapters can be viewed on- line at or by visiting

About ARAMARK Higher Education

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Executive Editors

Media Contact:

Dr. Scott D. Miller

Kelly Banaszak


Dr. Marylouise Fennell