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Articles: Asset & Investments

Higher education costs are skyrocketing at a rate much higher than inflation. While states have drastically reduced public university budgets, those universities are constrained from raising tuition costs appreciably. Add to this the fact that higher education is a labor-intensive enterprise, and you begin to understand the dilemma in which we college administrators find ourselves.

Until recently, many 403(b) employee retirement plans were viewed not as actual plans but as clusters of individual employee contracts with different vendors. Higher ed institutions were like middle men, with their role limited to passing through employee contributions to individual plans. Administrators saw little need to pay much attention to their 403(b) plans or to exercise much oversight of third-party mutual funds or insurance companies managing employee funds.

Wading through compliance rules can be daunting for even the most seasoned administrator. The Higher Education Compliance Alliance, a new online resource, was launched on March 1 to help answer the most burning federal law and regulation questions.

The website features information on more than two dozen topics, including accounting, affirmative action, campus safety, HEOA compliance obligations, lobbying and political activities, and tax compliance, to name a few.

An Atlas of Giving report reveals that the education sector was the strongest for charitable giving in 2011. The sector received $54.30 billion in 2011, an increase of 9.8 percent over 2010 when donors gave $49.44 billion. Education still falls in second place to religious charities, with education accounting for 16 percent of total giving in 2011 and religion at 36 percent.

Acceptance of cloud computing—the practice of storing data in off-site servers rather than on campus—has been growing by leaps and bounds, at least in some areas. “It’s growing in the areas easier to rip and replace, such as CRM,” says Stan Swete, chief technology officer at Workday, which offers HR and Payroll systems through software as a service (SaaS).

treasure box

Alternative revenue streams are increasingly attractive to higher education leaders struggling to live in the new budgetary normal triggered by the recession. Monetizing assets such as audio, video, and images an institution already has or is continually generating through digital asset management (DAM) can be tantalizing to those managing a school’s coffers. But in the academic environment, can officials look beyond the perception that for-profit endeavors cheapen a school’s reputation? 

Institutional transparency is much talked about and touted, but it apparently has a long way to go. According to an analysis of the degree to which colleges and universities make available what they’re doing to assess student learning, institutions could be sharing a lot more and doing so more clearly. For example, often, assessment results are found only on internal institutional research web pages that aren’t routinely searched by prospective students, parents, and other interested parties.

a mouse with the wire attached to a credit card

When it comes to e-commerce, anything retail can do, college campuses can do, too—and probably better, experts say. That explains in large part why the lone bookstore URLs many colleges and universities began with have blossomed into hundreds of online money opportunities ranging from student fees to concert and athletic tickets, from parking permits to alumni donations.

Education in the New Economy

While most auxiliary service departments look for opportunities to bring in more money as a means of funding their operations, examining ways to reduce expenses can work just as well. That’s what Bradley Markley, director of facility services at Messiah College in Grantham, Penn., has been doing for the last four years, with impressive results.

an arrow holding a dollar bill on a dartboard

As the name reveals, auxiliary services will never be directly related to the core mission of colleges and universities. But as ever-tightening resources have become the reality for institutions, the revenue-generating possibilities for these departments have become more important than ever.

In light of the current economic conditions and the decreased value of most endowments, many organizations are re-examining their investment strategies. Often overlooked: Spending policies must have not just the proper annual spending amount but also be adequately defined. 

Steve Jobs once opined, “It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the Navy.” Today, this classic metaphor provides us with a cogent expression of Jobs’ counter-intuitive resistance to the temptation of conformity, and his passionate desire to explore uncharted territory and discover unfound treasures.

Proposals are in from institutions vying to build a tech campus in the “city that never sleeps” as part of the “Applied Sciences NYC” initiative. It’s the beginning of an effort to bring New York City to the forefront of technology start-ups and innovation. The request for proposal was announced in July by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and other members of his cabinet, and the initiative will provide a university, institution, or consortium city-owned land and up to $100 million to cover building costs.

Leaders from 16 community colleges around the country gathered at the White House in September to participate in a roundtable discussion on the role community colleges play in America. The discussion was part of the Obama administration’s Champions of Change program, a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. Education Gateways recently spoke to four of the Champions of Change honorees about the challenges and opportunities they face as presidents of their institutions.