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Articles: Operational Efficiencies

The piece of paper. That’s what students are shooting for—a diploma, the tangible proof that they’ve met all requirements, completed the courses they had to complete, and graduated.

Who wants to wait for that?

University of Wisconsin-Stout graduates didn’t have any choice.

Despite a freeze introduced three years ago on full-time hiring, which was necessitated by statewide funding cuts to higher education, Miami Dade College still regularly hires part-time workers to fill support roles.

Its eight campuses have 6,200 employees, and at any given time there are between 300 and 700 openings, shares Iliana Castillo-Frick, vice provost of human resources. Available jobs comprise noninstructional jobs—including clerical, facilities, public safety, administration, and supervisory roles—as well as adjunct professor jobs on the instructional side.

Until 2009, students at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College (N.C.) could wait as long as two hours to be seen by a counselor in student services, which includes the offices of admissions, advising, financial aid, and the registrar. After signing in on a sheet of paper in one of the four offices, students waited to be seen. Sometimes they were then referred to another office, where they got in the back of the line. The process was not only time-consuming, but  frustrating.

It costs much more to recruit new students than to keep the ones you have, which is why retention is so important to colleges and universities.

With a 67 percent one-year retention rate costing $6.5 million in lost revenue annually, Valdosta State University (Ga.) officials knew they had to act. The problem was data that could have helped identify remedies were sorely lacking, and what little information the institution possessed was difficult to access and analyze.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more paper-laden function than accounts payable. Receipts, invoices, check requests, purchase orders, contracts, and more keep A/P personnel knee-deep in forms and documentation.

Loyola University Chicago’s accounts payable staff processes about 50,000 transactions among its three campuses annually—and 80 percent of them involved hard-copy documents. In many cases, A/P was not the final stop on the trail for this paperwork, and lost items were common, leading to processing delays and dissatisfaction among stakeholders.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have captured the headlines in higher education in the past year. These new platforms were developed to enable both open access and large scale participation in online courses. Many top tier universities are joining the MOOCs bandwagon, afraid of missing an important piece of the Web-based phenomenon. It is our goal as educators to assess whether or not they can become a best practice in online learning.

Students imagine a number of outcomes when they enroll in a course of study, but the one that probably doesn’t occur to them is the possibility they’ll show up to class and find their college closed.

The idea of yet another administrative process doesn’t tend to sit well with college and university officials. Yet, when assessing data that is not included in financial audits—such as admissions criteria, crime reports, retention and graduation rates, and degrees conferred—a thorough review process is integral to the success of an institution and to upholding its reputation.

Penn Park at  the University of Pennsylvania

At The Ohio State University, the term “master plan” is obsolete. That’s because what traditional master plans often lack—input from an institution’s academic and finance folks—are an integral part of the One Ohio State Framework Plan, shares Amanda Hoffsis, senior director of physical planning.

Connecticut Distance Learning Consortium girl on computer

As distance learning programs are developed and then refined, there are many options for national, regional, and statewide distance education consortia that the institutions can, and often do, join. The consortia help in sharing resources and tips to help each other with distance learning efforts.

Organizations like the American Distance Education Consortium, National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), and Sloan Consortium offer member schools access to networking, resources, conferences, and learning opportunities.

The $25.8 million New Central Residence Hall is scheduled for fall 2013 occupancy.

In all the understandable buzz about massive open online courses (MOOCs) and alternative models for delivering content, remember this: Residential campuses will continue to be critical to higher education and to preparing a competitive 21st-century workforce. Why? For starters, as MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote recently in The Wall Street Journal, high quality online education and affordable residential campuses are intertwined.

As the December issue was going to press mere days after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the Northeast, we were already hearing of colleges and universities in the region beginning to put the pieces back together. While the monstrous storm caused power outages and damage to many institutions, the effects likely would have been far worse, and even deadly, if not for effective disaster preparedness planning.

UBTech 2012 and 2013 presenter Daniel Rasmus is a strategist who helps clients put their future in context. Rasmus uses scenarios to analyze trends in society, technology, economics, the environment, and politics to discover implications used to develop and refine products, services and experiences. Previously, Rasmus was the director of business insights at Microsoft, where he helped the company envision how people will work in the future. He managed the Center for Information Work, an immersive experience that helped Microsoft’s customers experience the future of work first-hand.

Kutztown University (Pa.) was not as badly affected as places along the coast, but downed trees and extended power outages in the area were a challenge.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall in Atlantic City, NJ, at the end of October, creating devastation up and down the East Coast. Over 100 people in the U.S. died as a result of the storm and millions were without power for weeks. College and university campuses were not immune to the damage. Many institutions evacuated residential students as a precaution before the storm and were then forced to cancel classes for the rest of the week due to lack of power, as at the University of Hartford (Conn.) or hazardous conditions in their surrounding community, as at Fairfield University (Conn).

It’s nice to see something grow and take on a life of its own. When we first developed the Models of Efficiency program, we honestly didn’t know quite what to expect. We knew that, in the depths of one of the worst economic crises the country has faced in many years, people were desperately trying to find ways to “do more with less.” That mantra was drilled into the way we all did our jobs each day. Now, even as the economic picture improves, the “new normal” requires that college and university departments continue to rein in costs while improving service and effectiveness.