When the pot boils: The decline and turnaround of Drexel University

David A Paul, University of Pennsylvania


Drexel University was founded in 1891 by financier Anthony Drexel as the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry. The evolution of the Drexel Institute as a school for the urban working class into Drexel University as it exists today reflects the dramatic changes in the higher education marketplace that have occurred during the post-World War II period. This is a study of the factors that led Drexel University into a period of sharp decline during the late 1980's and near-bankruptcy in the early 1990's, and the combination of strategies and management actions that led to its turnaround within a five-year period. It considers how the history of the University, changes in the higher education market and a failure to understand the impact of those changes contributed to Drexel's financial decline, and the management strategies that contributed to the University's revival. This is an historical study informed by literature on organizational decline and turnaround designed to inform trustees and other stakeholders of universities that are experiencing financial and enrollment decline and seeking to craft a way out. The study has implications for universities experiencing mission drift, declining enrollment, and loss of market position. Many of these lessons parallel the experience of corporations experiencing fiscal distress, and the concluding section suggests parallels where they exist, and unique attributes of the university culture that make turnarounds of universities a unique but important challenge.

Subject Area

School administration|Higher education|School finance

Recommended Citation

Paul, David A, "When the pot boils: The decline and turnaround of Drexel University" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3124699.