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Articles: Commerce

Students may forget their campus cards in their rooms or figure they don’t need their wallet for a short walk around the quad. But the one thing they are likely never to be without is a phone.

Faculty and students at Bridgewater College in Virginia complained increasingly in recent years about the unavailability of textbooks at the campus bookstore. To control inventory, the store stocked only a percentage of materials required if everyone purchased what was expected.

Campus business officers also noted a rapid decline in textbook revenue and related commissions, as students pursued lower-cost alternatives to purchasing books from the store.

Colleges and universities are implementing a wide variety of travel-expense strategies to protect their resources and reputation

The uncovering of outrageous abuses of travel policies, along with tight budgets and public skepticism of tuition increases, are leading to scrutiny of every penny spent on travel. Long gone are the chauffeured limousines, $1,200-a-night hotel rooms and other lavish expenses of traveling administrators at some institutions that have grabbed news headlines.

Roughly six years ago, David Lewis served on a team that was designing policies for a new college in the Middle East. As president of OperationsInc., a national HR consulting and outsourcing firm, he met with seven top U.S. higher ed institutions to review their policies, including travel.

To Lewis, travel has now become “a game”—with institutional officials figuring out ways to prevent employees from manipulating policies.

To help convert rogue employees into team players, he offers the following tips:

Working together, campus buyers and facilities staff can ensure that dollars for equipment needs are wisely spent.

Who would ever think that replacing simple lightbulbs could end up costing a university hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or that a piece of equipment destined for a building’s basement could nearly cause the destruction of an exterior wall, with an associated price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars, because the system was too large to fit through a doorway and too heavy to ride on an elevator?

While each campus is unique, an audit may reveal surprising  information about the many places credit cards are accepted as  payment. (Click to enlarge)

Those involved in securing credit card data used in higher ed transactions need to be aware that banks are beginning to exercise greater scrutiny over these activities. It’s more important than ever that campus officials get a firm hold on, and a clear understanding of, this aspect of their operations.

Payment solution providers were asked: What is the biggest vulnerability you see when it comes to PCI compliance at colleges and universities?

The world of intellectual property is not the easy goldmine it may appear to be from the outside. There is a business behind selling scholarly works, whether they fall into the patent or copyright realms of IP--both forms are citizens of the university world, though with completely different issues and revenue streams.

While trademark would not generally be considered scholarly material that is serving the public good, the $4.6 billion a year it generates for institutions does help them remain more healthy and visible.

That total makes it the second largest category of licensed merchandise in the country, behind only Major League Baseball, says Andrew Giangola, vice president of Strategic Communications at Collegiate Licensing Company, a sports marketing company that represents nearly 200 colleges and universities.

Fair trade is a model in which producers are paid above market, “fair trade” prices provided they meet specific labor, environmental and production standards. (Photo:  Photograph by James Rodriguez, 2013, Fair Trade USA. All rights reserved)

Last fall Cabrini College (Pa.) became one of only 17 colleges and universities in the United States to be recognized as a “Fair Trade College.” (The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh was the first in 2008.)

Who's buying what?

When it became clear that the scientific equipment in hundreds of labs across the University of Pittsburgh campus was not being maintained effectively, professionals in the university procurement department began looking for a new provider to do the job.

The university had long relied on a purchasing cooperative to secure favorable contracts with vendors for bulk products such as office supplies. When administrators discovered that the cooperative had established an agreement with Specialty Underwriters (SU), a provider of equipment maintenance, their search was over.

Reverse auctions have, by some accounts, proven to save institutions more than 40 percent on goods and services.

Seconds tick by. Vendors submit bid after bid in real time, battling it out to win the business of the campus procurement office. The opposite of eBay, this reverse auction format results in the price going down with each bid.

At the University of Alabama, athletics fans can check out the Bryant Museum, covering UA sports history. It’s just one of several revenue-generating spots on campus where payments are made.

From the sale of tickets to athletic or performing arts events, to housing and parking fees and fines, as well as merchandise sales and event sponsorships, there are myriad alternative sources of revenue coming in to various departments on a given campus throughout the year.

Upon deciding that a more uniform approach was required when it came to the nontuition revenue being generated by departments across campus, The University of Alabama officials established policies designed to regain control of what had been, up to that point, highly decentralized.

Segmented into three areas—revenue-generating operations, credit card operations, and eCommerce ventures—the policies centralized the oversight and handling of funds within the student receivables office.

At Armstrong Atlantic State University, the business and finance department created a policy in 2011 that covers how to establish any revenue-producing activity.

Such activity is defined as that which generates revenue from the sale of products or services provided by the university or university employees.

Prior to establishing an account for this activity, a department must take the following steps: