Prep/CE Strategic Plan: Executive Summary

NEC’s Strategic Plan provides the fundamental architecture for the priorities outlined in the Prep/CE Plan:

1. Scholarship and Financial Aid

Currently, Prep/CE uses scholarship and financial aid as a slightly different tool than the college. Our objective is not only to create greater access to our offerings for students who would otherwise find it a hardship to participate, but to provide incentive to enroll. With our constituency, a small increase in scholarship will often serve as an incentive to enroll, which yields a higher matriculation, and therefore more tuition income. We are less constrained in our need to create a balanced incoming class, for example, or to achieve specific numbers in certain faculty studios. A higher percentage in scholarship dollars, therefore, should eventually lead to increased enrollment, and not just a higher quality of student.

2. Distinctive Faculty and Programs

Perhaps the greatest distinguishing feature of a Prep/CE education is the depth of its faculty, which includes a rich blend of local freelancers, career educators, and world-class performers, some of whom are also members of the college faculty. In order to remain competitive in the marketplace in terms of faculty retention, and recognizing that our current financial model does not have room for a significant increase in salaries, we need to create other vehicles for faculty engagement: increased input into programs, a greater sense of community, and a depth of connection to the college. Also, actively recruiting a greater number of faculty from the College to participate in Prep/CE programs will continue to bring the three schools into closer alignment. Engaging faculty chairs in the creation of job descriptions will encourage participation and a sense of ownership; and having thoughtful strategies in place for succession planning will ensure the continuity of leadership that every thriving institution requires.

Prep/CE programs will continue to evolve with four main objectives in mind:

  1. maintaining the rigorous and artistic quality of music education for which NEC is known, while remaining open and accessible to the community;
  2. celebrating the role of the “citizen-artist”—those who view and engage with the world around them through an artistic lens, and who often use the arts to respond to social issues—in our communities, and encouraging multiple points of musical and artistic engagement;
  3. flexibility to meet the ever-evolving needs of both our students and the music field; and
  4. supporting the larger institution’s goals through relevant programming and revenue generation.

High priority will be placed on ensuring that students have an equally rigorous and rewarding experience on any point of the learning pathway, regardless of their level of proficiency or participation. The measure of a successful Prep/CE education is whether each student receives the opportunity, support structure, and tools to work toward reaching his/her learning goals; not necessarily just “moving up the ranks.” Prep/CE faculty have always been committed to helping each student reach his/her individual potential, knowing that the results will look different for each person. Our programs and culture will reflect that same spirit, one that values effort and engagement, not just proficiency and achievement.

After internal restructuring in the Spring of 2011, oversight of the Abreu Fellowship was moved to Prep/CE. Since the inception of the program, Fellows have received credit for their work as NEC Certificate students, therefore the change was consistent with the way in which the program had been administered. Preparing a group of 50 talented young musicians to assume roles as citizen-artists in the community, in support of the principles set out by the El Sistema movement, will provide rich opportunities for developing deep ties to a myriad of communities, neighborhoods, and partner organizations throughout the United States.

3. Campus Redevelopment

The scope of Prep and CE’s current activities is determined in no small part by our access to space. The vast majority of Prep’s programs occur on Saturdays—private lessons, chamber music, classes, workshops, recitals, and rehearsals for approximately 20 large ensembles—which involves over 1,000 students and their families between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. See Appendix A. With the realization of the Campus Master Plan, we will be able to examine and re-imagine our core programs and the way in which they are delivered and experienced by our students. Until that time, program expansion will occur at a conservative, sustainable pace unless temporary alternative solutions can be found.

Continuing Education has somewhat more flexibility in its use of the campus, due mostly to the fact that its student body is so much smaller (approximately 300 regular students). However, we can only schedule classes after 5:00pm, and CE students are not afforded access to practice rooms. For the music enthusiast, this is less of a problem; however, with the expansion of our Professional Certificate programs, it will be an issue of ever-increasing concern. The new campus will hopefully allow CE students the ability to feel more integrated with the rest of the college by creating opportunities to learn and work side by side with their full-time colleagues.

4. Technology – Distance Learning

The use of technology and distance learning will drive a significant portion of CE’s future growth. We are currently exploring various delivery methods, some of which require very little capital investment. While our offerings will always appeal to a niche market (as opposed to general areas of study offered by universities), there are potential students around the globe who are eager to access NEC’s resources and to be associated with its widely recognized brand. There are already individual CE instructors who teach lessons and classes via Skype; by offering fully-loaded online courses and experiences, we can expand our reach exponentially.

Not only do we intend to develop distance learning at NEC for its revenue potential, but also to access students and classrooms in under-resourced communities. Having the ability to bring NEC into the community, as opposed to requiring the vast majority of our students to come to us, will allow us to share our resources in new and meaningful ways, and significantly increase our community impact in both depth and breadth. This application of technology has the potential to offer exciting and innovative tools to advance the work of Prep, CE, and the Abreu Fellowship.

5. New Revenue

In general, our revenue/expense projections in the next one to three years will be based upon leveraging our already existing resources to build/enhance programs to a scale that is reasonable and sustainable. There are certain areas in which Prep programs have room to expand, such as a few, select early childhood classes, an increased number of specialized ensembles, more “packaged” curricula in addition to our “a la carte” offerings, and utilizing off-campus sites, such as the Walnut Hill School, to expand our geographic reach. Given overall space constraints and staffing structure, however, Prep’s growth in enrollment will be noticeable, but limited, until the campus redevelopment occurs.

One potentially significant revenue stream could be realized through the creation of focused and sustainable community engagement programs, in which NEC works with community partners to serve a wider and more diverse audience through the sharing of non-monetary resources and commitment to mutually beneficial relationships. By engaging in an ongoing, meaningful dialogue with our neighbors, we will attract more philanthropic giving by expanding our reach and depth of constituencies, and lay the groundwork for identifying and cultivating potential new leaders for NEC that will support the institution’s growth in the 21st century.

Continuing Education has the potential for far more significant expansion. In the past, CE’s success was driven primarily by the enthusiasm and expertise of its faculty, and NEC’s brand recognition; not necessarily from a focused strategy for sustainable growth. While this model may have worked in a pre-2011 climate, we need to acknowledge the ways in which the world around us has changed, and the evolving needs and expectations of our constituents.

With the recent downturns in the American economy, there is greater interest in skill building and professional development. As a leading educational institution, NEC is uniquely positioned to offer both. Instead of catering mostly to the music enthusiast, we will also focus our offerings on two additional audiences: teachers seeking professional development opportunities, and certificate students who are interested in adding expertise and credentials to their portfolio of experience. These three focus areas will serve CE’s larger mission: providing music lovers with enriching educational opportunities, serving the field of music education by supporting arts specialists, and attracting more revenue through credit-based programs.

Summer programs will offer great potential for significant revenue development, upon completion of the campus master plan; however, our current facilities are inadequate to the task. The majority of rooms in both buildings are taken offline during the summer to complete much-needed maintenance projects, which cannot be done during the year, while they are in use. Also, classrooms are not air conditioned, which makes them uninhabitable; neither is the dorm, which, if properly outfitted, would give us tremendous flexibility in creating residential summer programs for both Prep and CE audiences. When the new campus is realized, we will engage in serious planning to develop strategic summer offerings.

Other areas of continued expansion in CE include partnerships and cross-enrollment with other higher education institutions around Boston, modeled on a cross-registration program with Northeastern that will launch in 2011–12; alternate summer programs; and distance learning initiatives.

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*The issue of significantly expanding our early childhood offerings has been raised throughout the strategic planning process. Adding a large volume of early childhood classes presents several challenges:

  1. We would be in direct competition with neighborhood community music schools.
  2. The abundance of these classes might lead one to believe that they are easy to teach, but the opposite is true; and the Prep/CE brand is built upon high-quality instruction.
  3. In the case of Suzuki, excellent Suzuki teachers are in high demand, and difficult to retain. Again, it is our responsibility to provide the strongest possible foundation for our youngest students, so program growth will be determined by our accessibility to the strongest instructors.
  4. Early childhood classrooms have specific requirements, including large open spaces for movement. NEC’s facilities and classrooms are not well-suited for that purpose.