Universities Compelled to Improve Affordability Management Practices in an Increasingly Competitive Environment

CHICAGO (September 18, 2014) – Higher education institutions are facing new pressures to enhance student outcomes while balancing fiscal constraints. Public concern about mounting student debt and enhanced scrutiny of college return on investment (ROI) have the potential to compromise the reputation and future of not only tuition-dependent colleges, but also endowment-rich institutions. In the recent webinar presented by accounting and advisory firm Baker Tilly Virchow Krause (Baker Tilly) and the Delta Cost Project of the American Institutes for Research (AIR), speakers outlined the current environment and realities within higher education and proposed ways for universities to adopt a transformative approach to meeting both outcome and financial expectations.

“As the result of heightened scrutiny and competition, all institutions are being forced to think about how to maintain quality academic programming while ensuring an intentional impact for every dollar spent,” explained Christine Smith, lead webinar presenter and principal in Baker Tilly’s higher education and research institutions practice.

There has been significant discussion and debate about alternative methods for delivering and paying for a secondary education. Almost 80 percent of participants polled during the webinar indicated that parent/student demands and technology influences were the most significant driving forces in affordability transformation.  

Participants inquired about the importance of the shift in the way metrics are used in evaluating ROI and outcomes. Webinar presenters provided specifics about the journey taken relative to meaningful metrics in higher education. For example, rather than focusing only on basic metrics, such as ‘degrees awarded’ and ‘graduation rates,’ universities should also incorporate the use of innovative metrics and predictive analytics, such as ‘correlation between time in library and retention rates’ and ‘learner profiles as a predictor to college readiness.’ These metrics will prove invaluable when determining specific cost-cutting and revenue-enhancing activities, according to Smith.

Chief financial officers, vice presidents for administration, directors of internal audit, trustees and other decision makers from colleges and universities across the country gained insight into key considerations to proactively negotiate the conflicting demands of today’s affordability crisis while maintaining positive student outcomes and experiences.

“The considerations relative to key cost containment are already being implemented, and restrictions and reporting requirements for receiving federal funding are currently being debated,” added Smith. “It is undisputable that higher education as an industry is positioned for a massive transformation during the next decade. The question to be addressed is where each institution falls on the continuum of openness and readiness to change’”

Slides from Baker Tilly’s webinar, “Affordability: Traversing the tightrope between student outcome expectations and fiscal constraints,” can be accessed at: http://bakertilly.com/insights/affordability-traversing-the-tightrope-between-student-outcome-expectations/

“Baker Tilly serves organizations across a variety of industries, including higher education and research institutions. For more information, visit http://bakertilly.com/industries/higher-education/.”

About Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP (bakertilly.com)

Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP (Baker Tilly) is a nationally recognized, full-service accounting and advisory firm whose specialized professionals connect with clients and their businesses through refreshing candor and clear industry insight. With approximately 2,800 employees across the United States, Baker Tilly is ranked as one of the 15 largest accounting and advisory firms in the country. Headquartered in Chicago, Baker Tilly is an independent member of Baker Tilly International, a worldwide network of independent accounting and business advisory firms in 147 territories, with 33,600 professionals. The combined worldwide revenue of independent member firms is $3.4 billion.