From Mission to Market: The rpk GROUP Solution

Higher education is being disrupted. Traditional methods for driving enrollment, institutional growth, and financial stability are no longer effective. In response to this changing marketplace and new, critical needs, we created rpk GROUP. As a leading education consulting firm, we support clients across the country and internationally.

We help colleges and universities create new business models that:

chevchev-smEnsure that resources are invested in student success

chevchev-smGenerate the resources to allow for reinvestment across the institution

chevchev-smCreate economic engines from both existing and new programs and services

This distinctive emphasis on maximizing mission, market, and margin for our clients has quickly earned rpk GROUP an influential role in defining higher education’s future.

What We Do

rpk GROUP’s Consulting Focus:



How we help our clients:

  • Build alternative business models
  • Shift institutional planning from tactics to strategy
  • Conduct academic portfolio reviews
  • Uncover administrative service efficiencies and cost savings
  • Create new resource allocation models
  • Develop pro forma models to test new program and service initiatives
  • Establish benchmarks and key performance indicators
  • Create strategic sourcing and shared service models
  • Assess return on investment for strategic and facilities master planning


rpk GROUP’s proven Mission, Market, and Margin framework reflects a fundamental shift away from measuring inputs to assessing outcomes, and from tracking spending to data-informed investing.

Our partnerships with preeminent national foundations enable the rpk GROUP team to research and field test new models and methods. We share these with our clients, who benefit from cutting edge approaches that are grounded in real-world experience.

The Critical Need for New Business Models

With the financial health of many higher education institutions increasingly at risk, the need for creating sustainable business models has never been more pressing. Yet at a time of growing urgency, exhausted financial approaches stubbornly prevail on too many college and university campuses.

Traditional methods that are no longer effective include:

chevchev-smCost Cutting:
The resort to cost cutting is a short-term and short-sighted solution, yielding temporary relief at best and lasting damage at worst.

chevchev-smA Focus on Budget Balancing:
Institutions have focused on simply balancing their budgets for one more year, rather than making strategic decisions that increase the return on investment to students and the institution.

chevchev-smPreserving the Status Quo:
Most budget processes attempt to fund historic cost structures, instead of reallocating resources to better fulfill institutional mission.

Our Approach

Our Mission, Market, and Margin framework ensures that our clients develop strategic answers to the questions arising in higher education’s new environment.


Almost 60% of college and university business officers predict that new spending at their institution will come from reallocated dollars rather than an increase in net revenue.

Our approach allows colleges and universities to maximize their current business models while simultaneously increasing their capacity to move toward a new shared future vision. This enhancement of the current business model results in:

  • A new awareness of the return on investment lens
  • The creation of new metrics for strong analysis and storytelling
  • Optimization of the academic portfolio and administrative services
  • The reallocation of resources toward investments that enhance student success and financial sustainability
  • The realization of new net revenue for investment in the institution

Our Clients

Revitalizing and reimagining today’s higher education institutions.

rpk GROUP serves clients throughout the U.S. and globally, including two-year and four-year schools, public and private sector institutions and systems, educational policy and governance organizations, and foundations. Our teams of experts have helped to launch brand-new institutions, as well as revitalize traditional institutions of higher education.

Our Team

At rpk GROUP, each of our consultants are leaders in their disciplines. Together, they help institutions create safe spaces where difficult decisions can be made through data-informed, strategically framed dialogue. Each of our team members brings over 20 years of experience serving higher education and other non-profits. They have “sat in the chair” and understand the challenges facing your institution today, as well as the solutions that are now transforming the industry.

Rick Staisloff
Lisa Clarke
Alisa Federico Cunningham
Donna Desrochers
Dawn O'Brien
Executive Assistant
Bryan Setser
Entrepreneur in Residence

News and Events

The Hechinger Report
Touted as the next big solution, competency ed programs that stress skills aren’t always a ‘quick and easy moneymaker,’ study finds, (Donna Desrochers and Richard Staisloff, 12/8/16)

Inside Higher Ed
Efficiency, at Scale

The Hechinger Report
rpk GROUP advises that the best way to reduce costs is to improve student completion rates.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Innovation Issue: Want Breakthroughs That Last? Consider Your Business Model

Costs of Competency-Based Programs Come Into Focus

Campus aerial photo courtesy of Mike Ekern, University of St. Thomas