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Present, Tense

July/August 2016


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While many challenges affect all colleges and universities similarly, others are unique to particular constituent groups: small institutions, research universities, comprehensive/doctoral institutions, and community colleges.

As part of its Economic Models Project, NACUBO conducted dozens of focus groups with representatives of the association’s four constituent groups, as well as with leaders from other higher education associations, think tanks, and state budget offices.

Thousands of comments collected from the groups point out many similarities in the suite of challenges facing higher education leaders. At the same time, unique barriers emerged for each constituency.

In answer to the question “What strategic issues, spoken or unspoken, on your campus are inhibiting you from moving to a sustainable economic model?” leaders of all types of higher education institutions noted the following: (1) resource allocation (including financial aid, tuition discounting, budget model, personnel costs, and so on); (2) the labor intensity of the organization (fixed vs. variable labor, personnel costs, research, tenure); (3) capital (for technology, facilities “arms race,” deferred maintenance, and debt); and (4) the external environment (the economy, regulation, competition, and so on).

Unique issues for constituent groups included:

Small institutions: Value proposition; public trust; and survival.

Research institutions: Ubiquity of technology; research issues.

Comprehensive/doctoral: “Public good vs. private good” argument; human resource management.

Community colleges: Remediation and/or college readiness; campus infrastructure; changing workforce; regulation; and the higher education culture.

Following are stories that describe these institution-specific problems and the initiatives implemented to find solutions.

CAROLE SCHWEITZER is editor in chief of Business Officer at NACUBO.


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