You are here

Articles: UB Archive

Several years ago The College of St. Scholastica, a Catholic Benedictine school in Duluth, Minn., purchased a business intelligence (BI) system to improve its ability to make data-driven decisions. Along the way, we learned some important lessons that have strengthened us, and that may be of use to other institutions.

Have you heard the news? E-mail might not be dead yet, but it is going away. That's what Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, announced on June 24, 2010, in a keynote at the Nielsen Consumer 360 conference. This assertion was based on a data point from the Pew Internet and American Life Project's April 2010 "Teens and Mobile Phones" report. Sandberg noted that only 11 percent of teenagers use e-mail daily - while an overwhelming majority don't stop text-ing and "Facebooking" all day long.


Gov. Mitch Daniels recently implored Indiana's public college trustees to maximize efficiencies and cut administrative costs. Instead of coming to the "Statehouse asking for more money," as he stated, trustees should "stay back at the school and find ways to be more efficient with those dollars." As the president of Indiana's largest public college, I applaud the Governor for acknowledging how critical it is to manage costs as our state faces serious budget challenges. And we all have put some recent efforts in place, under the guidance of our trustees, to cut spending.

Since emerging in the college recruitment world just three years ago, college search social media sites have been a rapidly growing category of recruitment tools that combine the function of college search websites with the interactive, dynamic communications of mainstream social media networks. As the sites have come of age, they have given admissions professionals increased flexibility, creativity and efficiency in their recruitment communications and the way student inquiries are generated.

A friend recently told me that she had deactivated her Facebook account because of security concerns. Just last month we heard that some Facebook applications, such as the extremely (yet inexplicably) popular Farmville game, were causing identifying information to be sent to advertisers without the users' consent.

Despite the money, time and good intentions thrown their way, most college and university marketing efforts are littered with flawed assumptions, missed opportunities, process inefficiencies, me-too work and disappointing results. The ripple effects spread to recruiting, fundraising, alumni engagement, pricing pressure, and even retention and institutional reputation.

Prospective college students and their parents use a much different barometer today to select a university. Yes, the value of education is important. But increasingly, so is the square-footage of a student's room, quality of cafeteria food and lobby decor. It's no coincidence that university student centers and residence hall common areas share the same color palettes found in the latest Teen Vogue and have the same kind of finishes you'd expect to see in three-star and above hotels and upscale apartments and homes.

Over the past few decades, colleges and universities have engaged in a kind of facilities arms race to build new, state-of-the-art dormitories, dining halls, classrooms, athletic complexes, and fine arts centers. Higher ed institutions face enormous competitive pressures to build buildings that rival what's on their peers' campuses. For many, cutting-edge means new.

Universities are information-rich environments - and not just in the academic sense. Year by year, students apply, attend and graduate, repeatedly filling out exhaustive forms. Their families provide extensive filings to qualify for financial aid. Professors come and go, some staying to earn tenure, others visiting on temporary assignment, providing detailed personal information along the way.

A recent, unsuccessful effort by Senate leaders to provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the United States illegally sparked debate over the provision among financial aid administrators. The provision, commonly referred to as the DREAM Act, would allow the children of illegal immigrants to earn citizenship through higher education or military service.

Start with an understanding of campus culture, stir in a strong sense of community, blend in a brand new dining facility and dining program, season with an educational component, and simmer for a sensory delight that will satisfy the hardiest appetite.

Colleges and universities rely on their buried infrastructure, including water, wastewater, and stormwater systems, to keep campus life running smoothly. Unfortunately, many institutions have patchwork systems of underground infrastructure, for which they lack accurate maps and often require more detailed information on the condition of these critical assets.

In the current economic climate, the majority of private universities are stuck between "a rock and a hard place" with both undergraduate admissions and fundraising efforts significantly challenged.