Niche Educational Programs

Traditional liberal arts university programs generally focus on giving students a well-rounded education. There is an incredible opportunity to disrupt that broad model and instead create small and focused programs. Different sectors of industries may be very interested in sponsoring niche programs, especially if they help provide solutions to common or uncommon problems within that sector of the economic. Restated; an incredible opportunity exists for focused undergraduate education designed as cooperative programs, where corporate partners fund niche schools to focus on specific problems of their industry. The benefits are that funded programs can focus on specific issues and knowledge as a means to develop a pipeline for recruiting and new knowledge.

As a scholar-practitioner, this isn’t theoretical for me. In 2017,  I founded and oversaw a cooperative program that was a part of a pilot that had tremendous success both in terms of the support it garnered but also the impact that it had on a city. We partnered with a number of non-profits and businesses to make it happen. The cost of the program was a heavy initial investment but has become self-sustaining as a result of a dedicated staff and faculty. Over the last 5 years it has grown to over 100 students. A key feature was community involvement and investment along with a dedicated internship program. I believe in the future some of the best undergraduate programs are going to be connected to corporate and dedicated schools associated with workplaces. This is already the case with many nursing programs attached to hospitals or other trade programs even working with strong high schools. Niche education programs may provide a means to both lower the cost of the education, increase the quality of the programming, and develop workplace pipelines. Today’s students have incredible access to information. Depth and specialization are need desperately in a changing workplace. 

I propose that for profit, non-profit, and church organizations sponsor associated programs that they can help shape and design as the education market shifts….

I welcome your thoughts. – author, Dave Pafford, MA, MBA