University Business has covered several critical finance-related topics and trends over the last 12 months. From tuition to student aid to endowments and fundraising, here, we’ve pulled together what we feel are the 10 hottest or most critical finance-related topics covered by UB during the year.
1. TUITION HEADACHES
No subject this year has been more volatile than that of how much to charge an incoming student. From tuition increases to reduced student enrollment to offering steeper discounts to draw students in, making the right tuition decision can make or break a university’s bottom line. Here are several ways colleges are cushioning the blow without losing students and explaining the need for tuition increases to students and parents.
2. STUDENT LOANS: THE NEXT BUBBLE?
Americans are taking on too much credit, and students are no exception. According to a report by FICO, student loan debt exceeds credit card debt, at an estimated $750 billion. What’s worse, this past July, interest rates on Stafford loans doubled from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Is a major default bubble on the horizon?
Piled Higher and Deeper
Dangerous Student Aid Myths
3. DROWNING IN FINANCIAL DATA
As technology moves out of IT and into the business, more often, one place it is finding a home is the department of Financial Aid. Department heads talk of running more reports than ever before, and having an insurmountable pile of data to manage. This deluge is expensive, time-consuming and when printed, wastes trees. But with the tools, all three can be reined in and Financial Aid can focus on what really matters: the student.
4. THE STRUGGLES OF FUNDRAISING
Achieving fundraising campaign goals is getting increasingly more challenging today, especially since those goal amounts are on the rise. This article looks at how goals are set, donors found, momentum sustained, and projects prioritized as funds start to roll in.
Deepening the Donor Pool
5. THE VERSATILE CAMPUS CARD
Campus cards are increasingly adding capabilities. However, many CFOs are starting to realize that they can also be a resource for institutionwide cost savings and revenue generation. In addition to food programs and bookstores, cards can be used for financial aid disbursement, faculty payroll, and even for paying some department invoices, reducing the use of checks and other administrative costs. They can also generate revenue when used at nearby restaurants and retailers your school has partnered with.
6. MO’ MONEY FROM AUXILIARY SERVICES
There is only so much a university can stretch its tuition dollars. So how can a school continue on a revenue growth trajectory without losing students to higher tuition? Through auxiliary services. From meal plans to parking, transportation, renting out residence halls in the summer, even charging for digital assets, universities have revenue-increasing options at their disposal they might not have realized.
7. SMART E-BUYING
Universities are done with paying through the nose every time a single department buys a printer or even, for that matter, a ream of paper. There’s strength in numbers, as e-procurement shows. These automated systems ensure that every department is receiving a volume discount rather than buying independently for a higher price. They are permission based, only allowing those with the right credentials to purchase, and even e-alert managers for a variety of reasons, such as when a buyer has reached his spending level. Hear from College of Du Page (Ill.), Virginia Tech, and Gettysburg College (Pa.) among others, on their successful e-procurement implementations.
8. RETIREMENT SCHMIREMENT
Challenging economic times call for creative, and sometimes desperate, measures. One of the first on many organizations’ lists, colleges included, is nudging people into early retirement to reduce—in some cases even eliminating—layoffs. Some institutions, including Middle Tennessee State University, Ohio University, and Dallas County Community College District, are making it work.
403(b) Audits: Lessons Learned
9. SECURING IT PROJECT FUNDING
While enterprisewide IT projects are generally funded through a central operating budget and planned well in advance, sometimes there is money left over in a budget that can be used for small, one-time projects. But more often than not, finding the budget dollars needed for smaller projects requires a little creativity and resourcefulness. For instance, Gettysburg College (Pa.) was able to piggyback a small IT project with a much larger capital investment project already running, while other universities have reclassified small projects under the department that will use the technology.
10. ENDOWMENTS POST-RECESSION
he worst of the financial crisis may be over, but finance departments are still left with questions. They are revising their theories while boards of trustees revise their expectations under what is being termed “the new normal.” Questions that were a little easier to answer in good times—Where should we invest our money? How much of a return should we expect? And how should the return be spent?—are all more difficult to answer now.
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