Helping higher education institutions reimagine the future by designing and implementing strategies that improve student outcomes such as graduation rates and greater inclusion, enabling more and better research, enhancing operational and administrative performance, and ensuring financial sustainability
We work with universities and other higher education institutions to transform operations and finances by diversifying revenue and creating operating efficiencies. We use data and analytics to assess the current state of operations, identify opportunities for improvement, and craft plans for institutions to implement them effectively.
We focus on providing better access to underserved populations as part of a “whole health” approach to our work. This means rethinking the conventional wisdom around value proposition, diversity, inclusion, student experience, business models, and delivery channels across the entire educational landscape.

What we do

Financial stability, transformation, and growth

Helping universities identify and deliver on the full potential for student outcomes, growth, and financial resilience through a tried-and-tested approach to performance improvement

Online and hybrid learning

Developing capabilities and organizational structures that launch and support digital educational access platforms, which creates new value for students and institutions alike

Strategy and organization

Supporting institutions in defining and implementing bold, path-breaking strategies with an eye to accelerating organizational and cultural health, creating the foundations for sustained performance excellence

Health care and academic medical centers

Identifying opportunities for engagement with the private sector to enhance student outcomes that include impact investing, public-private partnerships, and innovative finance

Mergers, acquisitions, and alliances

Delivering due diligence and execution support for successful educational mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, and alliances that bring the best from our M&A practice to ensure overall impact in service to all education stakeholders

Board governance

Helping university boards revise and deliver on their missions by redefining board structure, setting clear board processes and norms, and improving cooperation between the board and the administration

Examples of our work

Strategy transformation for a flagship state university

Identifying ways to improve the return on mission and enhance overall impact through a multiyear performance partnership, involving more than 300 faculty and staff members across this large, multiple campus system. Based on their feedback, we set direction in areas including enhancing enrollment, driving student success, expanding the online footprint, and identifying other potential growth levers. As a result of these efforts, the institution saw improvements in critical areas: a five percent increase in freshman enrollment, ten percent growth in transfer student enrollment, new research partnerships, and surpluses from renegotiations of contracts and procurement initiatives

Financial turnaround at a small liberal-arts college

Supporting the delivery of a step-change in performance during a planned two-year turnaround; helping secure a 30 percent larger incoming class, a seven percent increase in retention, the scale-up of online programs, and a reallocation of resources that resulted in the restoration of the college’s accreditation, which set the foundation for its sustainable financial performance going forward

Transformation of a top-20 institution

Partnering with a leading institution to outline a range of strategic opportunities for investment while identifying immediate ways of funding from current operations. Areas of operational focus included housing, athletics, food service, enrollment, third-party expenditures, and research. Using data-driven insights and deep stakeholder feedback, we worked with the board to fuel new initiatives in areas ranging from online programming, lifelong learning, the university’s physical footprint, and campus student loading to secure future growth and stability

Featured Experts

Charag Krishnan
Partner, New Jersey
Supports higher-education institutions on performance improvement programs, analytics, M&A, and financial sustainability
Jonathan Law
Senior Partner
Supports education organizations and state, provincial, and local governments design and implement major initiatives that advance...
Dirk Schmautzer
Partner, Dubai
Shapes economic and human capital development strategies to boost growth and create jobs. Leads McKinsey’s Education Practice...
Duwain Pinder
Partner, Ohio - Cleveland
Serves colleges and universities on strategy and performance improvements and supports organizations across sectors on racial...
Martha Laboissiere
Partner, Bay Area
Leads our work on post-secondary education, talent, and workforce development, serving clients across strategy, transformations,...
Wan-Lae Cochran
Partner, Washington DC
Supports public, private, and social sector organizations in designing and executing strategies that will help advance inclusive...
Alberto Chaia
Senior Partner, Miami
Works with clients in Mexico, Latin America and globally to develop strategies for economic development, financial inclusion and...
André Dua
Senior Partner, Miami
Provides strategic counsel and advises on performance transformation to state and local governments as well as public and private...
Leads Industries
Andrew Goodman
Senior Partner, London
Serves companies, governments and investors. He works with clients in sectors that are being disrupted to deliver strategic transformations....
Stephen Hall
Partner, Dubai
Helps large organizations in the public and social sector transform their impact to improve outcomes for people across the Middle...
Ben Pasquier
Partner, Seattle
Supports leading companies through large-scale transformations, working to make implementation successful and improve organizational...
Felipe Child
Partner, Bogotá
Passionate about improving the efficiency and effectiveness of critical organizations for our society—across the public, private,...
Dr. Fiyinfolu Oladiran
Partner, Washington DC
Leads the Public Sector and Social Sector Practices and advises on economic transformations, with a focus on public finance for...
Frankki Bevins
Partner, Denver
Partners with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to set bold strategies and build teams that can realize them
Ian Jefferson
Senior Partner, Washington DC
Serves healthcare clients across the value chain and helps complex organizations undergo postmerger integrations, culture-change...
Leads Merger Management Academy
Jake Bryant
Partner, Seattle
Helps education organizations spanning early learning, K-12, higher education, and adult learning improve learning and life outcomes,...
Jimmy Sarakatsannis
Senior Partner, Washington DC
Offers broad and deep expertise in education, with a particular interest in the use of technology to transform teaching and learning
Saurabh Sanghvi
Partner, Bay Area - Silicon Valley
Partners with public, private, and not-for-profit organizations around the world to set bold strategies and execute plans that...
Tim Ward
Senior Partner, Southern California
Leads our work with US state and local governments, bringing the best of our cross-sector expertise in digital, analytics, transformation,...

Featured Insights


Setting a new bar for online higher education

– Colleges and universities that learn from online education pioneers could improve operations and students’ experiences—and ensure their long-term viability.
Article - McKinsey Institute for Black Economic Mobility

How HBCUs can accelerate Black economic mobility

– Historically Black colleges and universities are uniquely positioned to inspire and support Black Americans in the five critical roles they play in the US economy.

How to transform higher-education institutions for the long term

– As financial pressures on higher-education institutions compound, a transformation approach focused on five best practices can help leaders make lasting change.

Scaling online education: Five lessons for colleges

– Before the pandemic, scaling an effective online offering was optional for higher education institutions. Now it’s a necessity.

Higher education enrollment: Inevitable decline or online opportunity?

– Declines in fertility and dropping international student numbers threaten the future of many higher education institutions, but others are prospering as they adapt to serve a more diverse and adult student base, increasingly online.

Shaping university boards for 21st century higher education in the US

– Many university boards have not revised their governance models in decades and struggle to deliver on their mission. To update their current operating model, boards can focus on three best practices.

Reimagining higher education in the United States

– As education leaders consider their options in the age of the COVID-19 crisis, they must rethink the conventional wisdom.

Rising costs and stagnating completion rates: Who is bucking the trend?

– The global COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated concerns about the value of higher education — prices are rising and completion rates are stagnating. Which higher education institutions are bucking the trend?

The rising toll of student debt: More than graduates can sustain?

– Total student debt is now higher than credit card debt in the United States, and the numbers are growing quickly and steadily: our research shows that each graduating class has more debt than the class before. The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to increase debt to new heights. How much more can students take?

Connect with our Education Practice