I think it’s fair to say that college students don’t put much thought to what it takes to keep their school running smoothly. They show up to school to take classes, enjoy a social life, explore opportunities, and graduate.
This certainly was true for me. I don’t blame my 18-year-old student self, because when you’re that age, you tend to be pretty self-obsessed. So when my school’s registration systems became overwhelmed, or when my Poli Sci final grade failed to appear on Blackboard the day after the exam, or when my scholarship funding took seemingly forever to be reflected in my tuition balance, it never really occurred to me that operating a college or university was exceptionally hard work.
It still is – in fact, it’s tougher than ever. And last week, I learned just how difficult things have gotten when I attended the Campus Technology 2014 Conference at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. I learned that my perception of higher education over a decade ago couldn’t have been more naive or simplistic. After speaking with numerous higher ed professionals, I came to realize the vast resources required to run an entire university. And if this wasn’t already challenging enough, falling taxpayer support has led to subsidy decreases, tuition increases and greater fiscal pressures on institutions.
Stephen Rituper explains how Tidemark Financial Planning for Higher Education can help a Campus Tech 2014 attendee.
A common theme I heard at the convention was that colleges and universities are increasingly “doing more with less.” With rising tuition comes even greater expectations, yet schools must somehow deliver on these expectations by relying on static or shrinking overall revenues.
So how do higher ed business officers do more with less?
Most of those I spoke with felt they had no choice but to somehow work smarter — to eliminate activities that aren’t producing results and replicate or expand the ones that do. But doing so requires administrators to understand what’s really going on within the university by making optimal decisions based on real-world data. Typically universities use Excel for big data analysis, but a big complaint I heard at the conference was how difficult it is to identify certain line items within huge spreadsheets with dozens, even hundreds of tabs, and then try to use those spreadsheets to collaborate with colleagues.
Last year, Tidemark worked with Brown University to help them move from an annual planning process to a cloud-based, continuous planning environment. Brown’s new environment unifies the separate planning models and data repositories that previously existed across four different schools, giving budget owners and planners a single view of plans and analytics that can be shared across the university.
Our work with Brown and other higher ed institutions helped us identify the different processes that higher education institutions go through in the planning process. Consequently, we developed Financial Planning for Higher Education, a packaged application designed specifically to reinvent strategic planning, revenue planning, personnel budgeting and control, departmental budgeting, capital planning and grant planning. Designed for use by any budget owner across the institution, Tidemark pushes planning and budgeting to the edges so department heads can understand and plan by funding course, grant, position, use, and more. And it uses unique features like Tidemark Storylines so a university’s financial story can be easily understood by provosts, donors, regulators and alumni.
Balancing higher expectations with shrinking incomes is no easy assignment. But Tidemark’s growing roll call of higher ed customers – including Brown, The University of Miami, Florida Atlantic University and the Association of American Medical Colleges – can attest that “doing more with less” is suddenly getting a lot easier.