Reimagining Higher Education: A Moonshot Approach to Strategic Planning

In higher education, the traditional approach to strategic planning is proving to be ineffective. Despite efforts to address challenges, many institutions continue to face financial difficulties, with some even closing their doors. It’s clear that a new approach is needed—one that is bold, innovative, and transformative. 

The Real Problem 

The challenges facing higher education are significant. Financial unsustainability is a pressing issue, with one-third of colleges on financially unsustainable paths. Since 2016, 86 institutions have closed or merged. Although small institutions face the largest struggle, even some large publics and flagship institutions are staring down challenging budget scenarios. 

There is a clear resistance to change, with many institutions clinging to outdated planning and business models reminiscent of grandma and grandpa’s leisurely road trip in a Model T. What’s needed is a radical shift—aiming for the moon in a rocket ship. 

Moonshot Thinking in Higher Education 

Moonshot thinking offers a new perspective on tackling these challenges. Coined by Google’s X division, moonshot thinking involves tackling big, seemingly impossible problems with innovative solutions. It’s about aiming for the moon and beyond, rather than settling for incremental improvements. In the context of higher education, this means reimagining the way we approach strategic planning. 

Learn a Better Way: 3E’s Modern Strategic Planning Framework 

At the heart of this new approach is 3E’s Modern Strategic Planning framework. This framework is centered around reimagining higher education, with a focus on developing meaningful, measurable, and differentiated strategic positions. By integrating expert counsel, market-leading forecasting, and exclusive tools and services, 3E provides institutions with a roadmap to success. 

Key Components of the Framework 

Central to the framework is the idea that your market position is your strategy. By identifying and visualizing your distinctive market position, you can create a roadmap for transformation. This approach is not about making small tweaks to existing strategies; it’s about fundamentally rethinking the way higher education operates. 


The challenges facing higher education are significant, but they are not insurmountable. By embracing moonshot thinking and adopting innovative strategic planning frameworks, institutions can chart a course for success. The moon is within reach; let’s aim for it together. 

A look into 3E’s Modern Strategic Planning Framework:

3E Modern Strategic Planning