Expanding the Small College Narrative
Chestnut Hill College
Guiding the transformation of a small liberal arts college through innovative programming and real estate strategy
Chestnut Hill College (CHC), a small, private institution located in historic northwest Philadelphia, prides itself on a strong mission and values-based education, central to its storied history of providing equal access to education for all. Today, CHC offers a quality education to students from all socio-economic groups, with special programs to address the educational challenges of first generation and underserved populations.
However, CHC, like many small, liberal arts colleges across the country, faces challenges from the changing higher-ed landscape, characterized by declining demographics, outdated delivery models and facilities, and industry oversupply.
U3 was first engaged by CHC in the spring of 2019 to asses development opportunities for its SugarLoaf campus, a 32-acre former estate just south of Chestnut Hill College’s main campus. The extensive initial assessment included not only the financial and physical assessment of this secondary campus, but also a deep look at CHC’s current academic and programmatic offerings. Moreover, it identified the need for a more comprehensive College-wide strategy to ensure long-term sustainability. Given the changing and competitive landscape of higher education, institutions must be creative in pursuing new ways of operating, particularly with limited financial resources and competing institutional priorities.
Since 2019, U3 has continued to serve a broader advisory role to CHC’s president and key cabinet members with College-wide initiatives. For example, U3 has supported CHC’s leadership in developing new strategies to leverage existing expertise in Montessori education and neurodiversity research. By expanding these programs, including creating the Chestnut Hill Institute for Montessori Education (CHIME), CHC is pivoting to address existing market demand, expand future market share, attract local and nation partners, and generate additional revenue to support the institution. The Wellness Collaborative (TWC), a regional initiative, has also emerged as a critical component to differentiate CHC from competitors. TWC aims to connect and advance the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of CHC’s students & staff, partners, and community, through a diverse range of academic and community programs serving local communities from school-age children to aging seniors. Through this innovative holistic approach, CHC is building long-term regional partnerships and a sustainable future for the College.