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Workforce development has long been a bastion of the community college environment. But with student-loan debt topping $1 trillion and enrollments falling, many four-year colleges and universities are devoting more attention to the area, in part as a way to boost their own relevance within a challenging global economy.

John Fragola (left) and Peter Grady use iPads to monitor the heat inside Dana English Hall on the Mount Carmel campus at Quinnipiac University. Both are licensed HVAC mechanics in the facilities department.

Members of the facilities crew at Quinnipiac University were spending a lot of time traveling back to their shop during the workday.

This situation, of course, was not unique to Quinnipiac, but department officials at the school set out to eliminate the trips workers had to make to retrieve new work orders, find information about equipment in manuals or look up floor plans. The central Connecticut institution has a 212-acre main campus, and two branches that are a half-mile and about five miles away.

The business value of any college or university lies in how effectively it serves its students through its ability to provide them with the support and resources needed to achieve their educational goals.

Higher ed institutions are looking for ways to move from paper-based to digital systems and to create accessible, centralized information repositories. As a result, they are increasingly using Enterprise Content Management as a way to achieve back-office efficiencies.

President Obama’s recent speech outlining his plan to make higher education more affordable had as its centerpiece the intent to hold institutions receiving federal funding more accountable for how well they’re serving their students. Congressional approval is required to turn Obama’s proposal into actionable legislation. But if it does pass, colleges and universities will face greater scrutiny than ever before. Much of this attention will be directed at student financial aid departments, compelling them to become more efficient, accountable, and transparent in their operations.

In the life of an institution, the chief financial officer helps drive the big narrative, but also digs down into the day-to-day. A CFO is strategist and analyst, decision-maker and inspirer, and protector and possibility-seeker all in one.

Student loan debt is topping $1 trillion, and borrowers aren’t the only ones with reason to be concerned. While higher education leaders aren’t responsible for the loans, they also have a stake in getting rising debt and default levels under control.

Megan McClean, director of policy and federal relations for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, says the first reason for concern about debt is simply that administrators care about students and want them to succeed.

Students at Savannah College of Art and Design have a variety of dining styles and locations to choose from across campus.

Only one-third of 3,400 U.S. college students say they’re satisfied with their meal plans, found a survey by food industry research firm Technomic. But schools are finding that to address the problem, they need to go beyond simply improving what winds up on diners’ plates.

Like many other agencies, city police departments are contending with shortages of time, money, and personnel, while the lives of their citizens (and of their officers) depend upon the ability to get the job done right. This balancing act is a challenge university and college police departments can relate to. ECM is helping some city police departments optimize their resources so they focus on what they do best—saving lives.

Tornados in Oklahoma and Texas. Wild fires in California and Colorado. Hurricanes in Louisiana and tropical storms along the upper East Coast. Not only do these disasters exert a terrible toll on people and on their personal lives, but they also wreak havoc on all manner and sizes of businesses, institutions of higher education among them.