ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

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1 ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES One Dupont Circle NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC ph fax By Cheryl Rice Financial Concerns and Higher Education: A Report on Presidential Perspectives The current, sustained economic downturn has placed considerable financial stress on nearly all facets of American life, including higher education. college and university presidents have clearly felt the pressure, and this report analyzes the economic issues that they believe their institutions are facing and the steps they are taking to secure the financial stability of the institutions they lead. College and university presidents maintain a number of overarching financial concerns: how to cope with continued decreases in federal and state funding, how the current recession will affect enrollment rates and how to balance tuition inflation and affordability. To help those involved in higher education better understand both the current financial situation and college and university presidents perspectives on these issues, the online news source Inside Higher Ed published Presidential Perspectives: The 2011 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Presidents in the summer of The respondents answers help clarify the current financial state of institutions and suggest several concrete strategies toward financial stability The report highlighted many of the financial, technological, and political issues that presidents are confronting, and it provided a unique insight into the personal opinions and perspectives held by those who participated in the survey. To better serve those in the field of higher education, ACCU has collaborated with Inside Higher Ed to present a detailed look at the responses of college and university presidents. 1 This analysis addresses the following questions that were asked to 58 college and university presidents: What are the top financial concerns facing your institution in the next two to three years? What strategies would you employ to confront financial difficulties if you could? What strategies are you currently using? What strategies would you use to increase your institution s revenue if you could? Cheryl Rice is currently a volunteer at Tobar Mhuire Retreat Centre in Northern Ireland, where she coordinates retreat programming for young adults. She recently graduated from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry with her master s degree in theological studies and was a graduate intern at ACCU in summer data in this analysis are courtesy of and copyrighted by Inside Higher Ed.

2 What strategies would you use to reduce your institution s operating expenses if you could? What is the status of outsourcing at your institution? How well do various individuals and campus constituencies understand the financial challenges confronting your institution? The respondents answers help clarify the current financial state of institutions and suggest several concrete strategies that presidents hope to enact to provide financial stability at their institutions. This report also presents the responses of presidents from other sectors of higher education, placing the situation of colleges and universities within a broader context. Key Findings Presidents of both and all private institutions project many of the same financial concerns will affect their institution within the next two to three years, including rising tuition/affordability, which topped the charts for both sectors. Responses from public institution presidents highlight a few different concerns, most notably potential cuts in core state funding and operating support. Regarding strategies that college and university presidents would like to employ to respond to financial challenges, the data suggest a similarity among all three sectors: implementing strategies that address the institution s financial difficulties while maintaining the academic integrity of the school. Unfortunately, a difference also emerges between the strategies that the president would most like to implement and those that are currently being implemented. Among all sectors of higher education, presidents are likely to use similar strategies to increase revenue. One slight difference is that and all private institution presidents are more likely to increase their school s endowments, while public college presidents are more likely to expand their online programs. In selecting strategies that they are most likely to use to reduce operating expenses, the most common responses of college presidents correspond to strategies that seek to address current problems and make operations more effective. These presidents are least likely to employ approaches that involve reducing benefits for the intuition s employees. These same patterns are also seen among both all private and public institution presidents. The overwhelming majority of, private, and public college and university presidents have chosen to outsource bookstore and food service operations. The data suggest that presidents are more selective in outsourcing other aspects of university services, particularly those that directly affect current and future students and alumni. Finally, the data in this report suggest that, from the president s perspective, those campus officials who are more involved with the administration and overseeing the university as a Page 2

3 whole are more likely to understand the current financial situation of the university. As people become less familiar with these functions, the less likely they are to fully grasp the institution s financial situation. Financial Challenges and Strategies The survey asked presidents to consider the most important financial issues and concerns that they anticipate in the upcoming years. As Table 1 indicates, rising tuition/affordability, potential cuts in federal student aid programs, inadequate enrollment/tuition revenue, the rising discount rate on tuition, and potential cuts in state student aid programs were the top five financial concerns of college presidents. Potential cuts in federal research support, maintaining/improving the institution s credit/bond rating, retirement liabilities, and stateimposed limits on the college s ability to raise fees were the least popular responses, suggesting that they are less likely to cause concern among presidents. Table 1. What are the top two financial concerns facing your institution in the next two to three years? Percentage of respondents Institutions Potential cuts in core state funding/ operating support (34.7) Rising tuition/affordability (31.5) Potential cuts in federal student aid programs (27.1) Inadequate enrollment/ tuition revenue (21.0) Budget shortfalls (20.0) Public Potential cuts in core state funding/ operating support (65.6) Rising tuition/affordability (26.6) TIE: Potential cuts in federal student aid programs AND Budget shortfalls (23.6) Stateimposed limits on our ability to raise fees (12.5) Private Rising tuition/affordability (36.6) Inadequate enrollment/ tuition revenue (32.5) Potential cuts in federal student aid programs (28.4) The rising discount rate on our tuition (28.1) Budget shortfalls (16.8) Rising tuition/affordability (41.4) Potential cuts in federal student aid programs (37.9) Inadequate enrollment/ tuition revenue (34.5) The rising discount rate on our tuition (25.9) Potential cuts in state student aid programs (19.0) Similar concerns can be seen between college and university presidents and the presidents of all private institutions. The rising cost of tuition and questions of affordability are ranked as their top two sources of unease. While these two sectors share many of the same financial worries, one difference that arises is that private college presidents tend to be more Page 3

4 concerned about budget shortfalls, while institution presidents see potential cuts in state student aid programs as a larger fear. The differences between college and university president responses and those from presidents of public intuitions are more pronounced. While all the presidents worry about rising tuition and affordability and potential cuts in federal student aid programs, public institution leaders are as one might expect more concerned with financial issues that are connected to state funding. In fact, the leading concern for public institutions is potential cuts in core state funding/operating support. This issue drew a response rate of 65.6 percent, making it decisively the top financial concern for presidents of public institutions. In comparison, potential cuts in core state funding/operating support is one of the least concerns for institutions, receiving a response rate of percent. Issues such as budget shortfalls and stateimposed limits on an institution s ability to raise fees also rank prominently in the concerns of public institution presidents, but present minimal concern for colleges. The strong connection between financial concerns and state and federal funding among presidents of public intuitions should not be surprising: Public institutions generally depend on state and federal funding, while institutions rely more heavily on such factors as high enrollment and significant endowments for revenue. In times of financial hardship, there are many different ways to respond. The strategy that a college or university president employs often depends upon the support of senior administrators and other key constituents. Table 2a (on the following page) summarizes the different strategies that presidents would prefer to employ, assuming they have the support needed to enact them. A surprising amount of similarity exists within the responses across the In times of financial hardship, there are many different ways to respond. A surprising amount of similarity exists within the responses across the different sectors. different sectors. Removing poorly performing employees, including faculty, received the highest ranking by public, all private, and institution presidents, followed by cutting underperforming academic programs and increasing enrollment. There is also similarity among the strategies that the presidents are least likely to use. Moving to a more aggressive investment strategy for endowments and outsourcing instructional services ranked lowest among the strategies listed. These results suggest commonality among all college and university presidents that is, a common desire to maintain the academic integrity of the school while addressing its financial difficulties. This is demonstrated by the presidents favoring removal of poorly performing programs and employees, and by their preference for keeping instructional services inhouse. Page 4

5 Table 2a. What strategies would you employ to confront financial difficulties if you could? Mean of likelihood to use (1 = not likely; 7 = very likely) Institutions Public Private Removing poorly performing employees, including faculty Cutting underperforming academic programs Increasing enrollment Increasing teaching loads for fulltime faculty Increasing collaboration with other colleges and universities Centralizing/consolidating resources and services Increasing use of parttime faculty Outsourcing nonacademic campus services (dorms, bookstore, etc.) Significantly increasing tuition (by more than 5 percent) Significantly cutting budget for athletic programs Narrowing or shifting the college s mission Moving to a more aggressive investment strategy for endowment Outsourcing of instructional services Table 2b (on the following page) presents similar trends to those seen in the previous table, focusing on those strategies that presidents cited as being very likely to employ if they could. Removing poorly performing employees, cutting underperforming academic programs, and increasing enrollment received the highest percentages of responses, while outsourcing instructional services and moving to a more aggressive investment strategy for endowments received the lowest percentages of responses among all sectors. Where some disparity can be seen is in the 19 percent of public institution presidents who responded that they are very likely to increase tuition significantly, while only 2.2 percent of college and university presidents indicated a high likelihood of implementing this strategy. It is possible that institution presidents are less likely to increase tuition as a means of countering financial concerns because their students tuition is typically higher than students who attend public institutions. Page 5

6 Table 2b. What strategies would you employ to confront financial difficulties if you could? Percentage of those very likely to use (score 6/7; 1 = not likely; 7 = very likely) Institutions Public Private Removing poorly performing employees, including faculty Cutting underperforming academic programs Increasing enrollment Increasing teaching loads for fulltime faculty Increasing collaboration with other colleges and universities Centralizing/consolidating resources and services Increasing use of parttime faculty Significantly cutting budget for athletic programs Outsourcing nonacademic campus services (dorms, bookstore, etc.) Narrowing or shifting the college s mission Significantly increasing tuition (by more than 5 percent) Moving to a more aggressive investment strategy for endowment Outsourcing instructional services While Tables 2a and 2b present data on different strategies that presidents would like to employ if they received the necessary support, Table 2c (on the following page) presents the percentages of presidents who are currently using those approaches. Increasing enrollment is the strategy that is being employed by the most campus leaders, including college presidents 63.8 percent of them responded that they are currently seeking to increase enrollment. The second most popular response is outsourcing nonacademic campus services, selected by 46.6 percent of institution heads and 39.8 percent of all university presidents. Among the least popular strategies currently being used are significantly cutting the athletic program budget (indicated by percent of and 3.3 percent of all university presidents) and outsourcing instructional services (3.4 percent of and 2.8 percent of all university presidents). Page 6

7 Table 2c. What strategies are currently being used to address your institution s financial situation? Percentage of respondents using Institutions Public Private Increasing enrollment Outsourcing nonacademic campus services (dorms, bookstore, etc.) Increasing collaboration with other colleges and universities Centralizing/consolidating resources and services Increasing use of parttime faculty Cutting underperforming academic programs Removing poorly performing employees, including faculty Significantly increasing tuition (by more than 5 percent) Increasing teaching loads for fulltime faculty Moving to a more aggressive investment strategy for endowment Narrowing or shifting the college s mission Significantly cutting budget for athletic programs Outsourcing instructional services As the reader can see, strong similarity exists among the responses of, all private, and public institution presidents. While the percentages vary slightly, the rankings are essentially the same, with a few notable exceptions. First, public college presidents are currently increasing the use of parttime faculty to a greater extent (48.5 percent) than they are outsourcing nonacademic campus services (40.7 percent). They are also employing this strategy far more than their colleagues in other sectors, especially university presidents. Second, public college presidents stand out in their use of increasing tuition by more than 5 percent. These deviations suggest considerable variation in the support that presidents receive to implement potential strategies. This theory can be further supported by returning to Table 2a. As we saw, increasing enrollment, cutting underperforming academic programs, and removing poorly performing employees are the top three strategies that university presidents More than 62 percent of university presidents considered cutting underperforming academic programs a very important financial strategy, but only 20.7 percent currently use this strategy. say they would like to employ. From this list, only increasing enrollment is found among the top three strategies that are currently being employed. Notably, more than 62 percent of Page 7

8 university presidents considered cutting underperforming academic programs a very important financial strategy, but only 20.7 percent currently use this strategy. Similarly, nearly 60 percent of college presidents responded that removing poorly performing employees would be a very important financial strategy, but only 25.9 percent currently do so. The same trend holds true for public and private university presidents responses, thus underscoring the idea that the number of viable strategies for confronting financial challenges may be limited, perhaps by a lack of support from senior administration and other important campus figures. Increasing Revenue Next, the survey asked presidents to rate the importance of various strategies to their institution s ability to increase revenue within three years. Table 3 shows that college and university presidents identified increasing net tuition revenue, securing greater corporate support, recruiting more fullpay students, and significantly increasing the size of the endowment as the top four strategies for increasing revenue. Creating programs to serve foreign markets, becoming more aggressive about endowment investments, and increasing revenues from bookstore operations were the least popular strategies selected by these presidents. Table 3. How important will the strategies listed below be to your institution s ability to increase revenue in the next two to three years? Mean of importance (1 = not important; 7 = very important) Institutions Public Private Increasing net tuition revenue Securing more corporate support (grants, gifts, contracts, etc.) Recruiting more fullpay students Significantly increasing the size of the endowment Developing/expanding online program Recruiting more outofstate students (U.S. residents) Using campus facilities and other resources on a yearround basis Increasing revenue from other auxiliary enterprises Recruiting more international students Reducing the discount rate Moving more core campus operation and support services to the web Increasing revenue from bookstore operations Becoming more aggressive about endowment investments Creating programs to serve foreign markets Page 8

9 The preferences indicated by college and university presidents reflect those of all private institution presidents. For their part, public college presidents identified developing/expanding online programs, increasing net tuition revenue, securing more corporate support, and recruiting more fullpay students as the most important strategies for growing revenue. In comparison, developing/expanding online programs was ranked fifth by university presidents. Another difference between these two sectors is the weight given to recruiting more outofstate students. One might be inclined to think that this strategy would be more important for public institutions, which typically assess higher tuition rates to outofstate students, compared to colleges, which generally charge equal tuition rates to both instate and outofstate students. However, although this response falls neither in the top nor the bottom for either college presidents or public college presidents, the public institution leaders actually ranked this option lower (4.1 mean compared with 5.1 mean by college presidents). One possible explanation is that, by actively recruiting outofstate students, college and university college and university presidents may be trying to expand their pool of applications, thus boosting their name recognition, either regionally or nationally. presidents are trying to expand their pool of applications, thus boosting their name recognition, either regionally or nationally. Page 9

10 Reducing Expenses Besides increasing revenue, presidents must also seek ways to reduce the current operating expenses of their institutions. Table 4 lists various strategies that campus leaders were asked to rank, and shows that using metrics and technology to identify problems and devise potential improvements ranked highly among college and university presidents, as did making more efficient use of facilities. Much less popular were reducing retirement benefits for employees, sharing more retirement costs with employees, and reducing health insurance benefits, suggesting that these are three areas that presidents are least likely to pursue in their attempts to lower institutional costs. Note that the strategies receiving the highest mean scores all seek to address current conditions and make operations more efficient, while the strategies with the lowest mean scores involve reducing benefits for the intuition s employees. From this we can surmise that, despite current financial challenges, institution presidents are less likely to make cuts that directly affect college employees. Table 4. How important are the following strategies for reducing operating expenses in the next two to three years? Mean of importance (1 = not important; 7 = very important) Using metrics to analyze programs and strategies to identify problems and potential improvements Institutions Public Private Making more efficient use of facilities Using technology tools to evaluate programs and to identify problems and potential improvements Eliminating lowenrollment academic programs Using technology to reduce instructional costs Centralizing/consolidating administrative functions Centralizing/consolidating IT resources and services Increasing teaching loads for fulltime faculty Sharing more health insurance costs with employees Developing/expanding early retirement programs Reducing health insurance benefits Sharing more retirement costs with employees Reducing retirement benefits for employees Page 10

11 Similar trends arise from the responses of all private and public college and university presidents. Like college presidents, their peers at private and public institutions favor using metrics to analyze programs and strategies to identify problems and potential improvements, and making more efficient use of facilities. While all three sectors shared these top two strategies, however, private and public college presidents were more likely to eliminate lowenrollment academic programs than to use technology to evaluate programs and identify potential improvements. Regarding the least popular strategies, we again find consistency among private and public college and university presidents: Reducing retirement benefits and sharing more retirement costs with employees were the two least popular responses. Cutting health insurance benefits and developing/expanding early retirement programs tied for third least popular. Outsourcing Outsourcing has become a popular option for organizations that are seeking to find less expensive options for production and services. As we saw in Tables 2a through 2c, outsourcing is one strategy that some institutions are employing to reduce costs, though its current use appears to be largely confined to nonacademic services. Table 5 (on the following page) presents a more indepth look at the practice of outsourcing on college and university campuses. This table reveals that college and university presidents like their peers have chosen to outsource certain university services, and not others. Of the 12 areas investigated in the survey, only two functions are being outsourced by a majority of college and university campuses. In both cases, institutions reported a higher prevalence of outsourcing than their public and private peers. Nearly 85 percent of college presidents said they have chosen to hire external food service providers, while 67.2 percent have chosen to subcontract bookstore management. These findings are not surprising, given that companies such as Barnes and Noble and Aramark have become mainstays on college campuses. Page 11

12 Dormitory management Bookstore management Food service management/operation Physical plant/custodial services Technology/IT user support services Technology/core IT management services Table 5. What is the status of outsourcing at your institution? Percentage of respondents Institutions Public Private Table continues on next page Page 12

13 Table 5. What is the status of outsourcing at your institution? continued Call center services for recruitment/adms. Call center service for financial aid counseling Call center services for alumni/development Instructional support services (counseling/academic advising etc) Development of instructional resources for our online courses and programs Delivery of instruction in our online courses and programs Institutions Public Private Page 13

14 Besides noting the areas that university presidents have chosen to subcontract, Table 5 also highlights the areas that they have decided against outsourcing. For example, outsourcing call center services for financial aid counseling (55.2), IT user support services (55.2), call center services for recruitment/admissions (53.5), and dormitory management (53.5) have all been reviewed and decided against by more than half of institutions. It is interesting to note that the employees who perform the functions that these presidents most often opt to keep inhouse all have direct interaction with current, future, or past students. This suggests that presidents wish to restrict this contact to official university employees. While the percentages vary slightly, the data suggest a general consensus on the areas that college and university presidents choose to outsource. Much like institutions, a high percentage of public and private institutions outsource bookstore and food service management. More than 55 percent of private and public institutions outsource bookstore management; over 69 percent of public colleges and nearly 79 percent of all private colleges outsource food Employees who perform the functions that college presidents most often opt to keep inhouse all have direct interaction with current, future, or past students. service operations. While these proportions are slightly smaller than those for institutions, they still represent the majority of presidential responses. Common Knowledge The survey also asked presidents how well various individuals and campus constituencies understood the financial challenges of the institution. The responses may give some indication of which individuals could be targeted as campuses seek to expand understanding of financial conditions so that a college or university can achieve greater stability and financial security. Page 14

15 Not surprisingly, as Table 6 shows, university presidents and CEOs ranked themselves as having the clearest understanding of financial challenges, with a mean score of 6.4 (of 7). Next, presidents gave high ratings to their regents and trustees, followed by provosts and chief academic officers. Department chairs, faculty leaders, and faculty were considered moderately aware of the financial challenges of their institutions, with means of 4.4, 4.0, and 3.4, respectively. Lastly, with means of 3.0 or lower, local/state elected officials, alumni, students, and community members/civic leaders were considered to have the least developed understanding of institution finances. The data suggest that in presidents minds, as people become further removed from the administrative aspects of an institution, the less likely they are to understand the financial issues and challenges that the institution is facing. Table 6. How well do various individuals and campus constituencies understand the financial challenges confronting your institutions? Mean of level of understanding (scale 1 = do not understand; 7 = understand very well) Institutions Public Private Presidents/CEO Provost/chief academic officers Regents/board of regents/trustees Department chairs and deans Elected faculty leaders Faculty Local/state elected officials Community members/civic leaders Alumni Students This trend also can be observed in the responses of public and all private institution presidents. One notable difference is that leaders of public institutions gave higher marks to their local and state elected officials, in terms of understanding financial issues in their institutions (4.1), than did the presidents of all private institutions (2.8) and institutions (3.0). One could suggest that because public colleges depend on state funding, it is more likely that elected officials would be knowledgeable of the financial struggles of these institutions within their jurisdiction. Page 15

16 Conclusion The results of this survey present several noteworthy trends and insights with regard to the current financial situation of colleges and universities. Although an analysis of contemporary financial challenges to colleges and universities may be disheartening, this review can serve as a resource to those who wish to better understand the financial situation of colleges and universities today. Two encouraging points in particular can be gleaned from this analysis. Without minimizing the current financial troubles of colleges and universities, these bright spots may provide a bit of hope to intuition leaders as they move forward in responding to challenges. First, one simple yet important observation that the analysis suggests is that there are many strategies that can be employed by presidents and senior administrations provided they can muster the necessary support to begin to counteract negative economic forces. No single blueprint will lead colleges out of their financial problems, but rather a myriad of strategies can be tested and adapted to best fit the institution. It becomes both the task and the goal of campus leaders to find the strategies that will be most effective on their campus. This analysis, which presents the responses of 58 college and university presidents, can be a helpful starting point in identifying possible strategies for creating financial stability. college presidents may find it helpful to turn to their peers at other private or even public institutions for different ideas and strategies. Second, a surprising amount of similarity arose among the responses of, all private, and public college and university presidents. While it is important not to overlook the differences, this analysis suggests that all sectors of higher education are facing similar financial trials and responding to them with some of the same strategies. college presidents may find it helpful to turn to their peers at other private or even public institutions for different ideas and strategies. Ultimately, the circulation of innovative ideas and increased networking among presidents and seniorlevel administrators may prove especially beneficial as colleges continue to confront financial issues and challenges. Page 16

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