I recently had the pleasure of attending the EACUBO Annual Meeting in Buffalo, New York. The conference brought together College and University business officers from throughout the Northeast with the goal of sharing new ideas regarding how institutions can meet the financial challenges of a quickly changing higher education landscape. Among the topics included were succession planning, sustainability, and risk mitigation. A common underlying theme was how to use metrics and data analytics to support institutional efforts to make better decisions.
I was afforded the opportunity to present a micro-session to 30 EACUBO attendees interested in learning more about how they can use analytics to support financial decision making at their institutions. Though it seems many institutions are still struggling with the integration of disparate data sets, further complicating their ability to make decisions, I had a chance to showcase two of our partner institutions and EACUBO members, UMass Lowell, and Ithaca College during my session. Both have worked with HelioCampus to accelerate their path toward more advanced analytics and to help better understand students and solve problems. The session spurred several subsequent conversations throughout the conference. I left the conference feeling like there is definitely a financial “will” to get this done.
I also had the pleasure of attending a few very interesting sessions, one of which was presented by Slippery Rock University. The Slippery Rock team discussed how finance and facilities were able to team up to achieve their deferred maintenance and sustainability goals, and how they used data to build a business case and generate buy-in from internal and external stakeholders. They also stressed the importance of understanding how to position information with your stakeholders. This project allowed Slippery Rock to successfully implement a program that brought together energy savings and an expansive deferred maintenance program.
I also had the chance to hear the dynamic President of Butler County Community College, Dr. Nicholas Neuhauer, talk about how he and his team have positioned BC3 for success. He lives by one main credo: All resources are deployed to support their strategic plan. If it doesn’t support their plan, it doesn’t get approved. He also made a point to mention they “take baby steps” when considering new initiatives. In a time where institutions are erecting new buildings everywhere, he and his team have taken a very cautious approach to expansion. Dr. Neuhauer made mention of former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Donna Shalala’s “Lawn Chair Movement” while at the University of Miami. In short, Dr. Shalala realized that University of Miami had a large commuter constituent base and wanted to create space for these commuters to stay while on campus. Before building a new Student Center, or annex to the library, she had lawn chairs put out in the courtyards and common areas to see if the commuters would take advantage of those. Dr. Neuhauer explained a similar “philosophical” strategy for BC3 expansion. Baby steps…
I found the conference to be very informative. Knowing the critical role business officers play in running a fiscally responsible and financially viable institution, it left me very encouraged to see the current pace at which these individuals are beginning to adopt analytics as part of their answer to a multitude of challenges.