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Curated content on higher education presented by the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP).
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Higher Ed Consultants' Best Case Scenarios Rarely Reality, Seen as Necessary

"According to the new research, colleges reported saving only 2 percent on average so far. That might increase to 2.2 percent when all is said and done, though, because of cuts the colleges are still making. That's pretty close to the low-end "base case" of savings consultants gave colleges, of 2.6 percent in savings, but a long way from the best-case scenario of 4 percent.while colleges may enjoy working with consultants to diagnose their problems, the consultants’ recommendations end up being fairly similar. ...


'There’s a playbook, so to speak, for this,' he said.


Still, he did not find a college that lost money using a consultant, only colleges that saved much less than the best-case scenario."

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

And : "[C]olleges in the study felt they needed consultants, and some of the projects they worked on required hundreds if not thousands of people. So they might not have been able to achieve much or any savings without the aid of consultants."

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Getting a Handle on Performance-Based Funding

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

Frequent SCUP speaker, Dennis P. Jones, is quoted as saying that “States are getting more sophisticated about what they’re doing and are crafting models that really reinforce institutional mission differentiation, rather than doing the same thing for everybody.” Jones is president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, whose October 2013 report, “Outcomes-Based Funding: The Wave of Implementation,” examines such policies. “They’re also putting a bigger share of the allocation into outcomes-based funding.”

This author concisely organizes this brief and informative resource, from AASCU's Public Policy magazine, under the primary heading of "A More Sophisticated Model," with these bullets.


  1. An Active Role for Stakeholders
  2. Differentiate Metrics and Rewards
  3. Make the Money Meaningful
  4. Make the Penalties Reasonable
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In Moody’s U.S. college credit ratings, downgrades far outnumber upgrades

In Moody’s U.S. college credit ratings, downgrades far outnumber upgrades | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

"Moody’s has downgraded three dozen other four-year colleges and universities since July 2013, a sign of continuing financial fragility in higher education.

By contrast, nine of about 500 higher-ed institutions that Moody’s analyzes were given credit rating upgrades in the past year."

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

The author, Nick Anderson, provides some detail on the major changes up and down.

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Data Matters: Per-Student Spending Stays Flat at Community Colleges - AACC 21st Century Virtual Center

Data Matters: Per-Student Spending Stays Flat at Community Colleges - AACC 21st Century Virtual Center | SCUP Links | Scoop.it
A closer look at full-time equivalent student spending at U.S. community colleges compared with other sectors of higher education.
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University of Chicago Is Outlier With Growing Debt Load

University of Chicago Is Outlier With Growing Debt Load | SCUP Links | Scoop.it
The University of Chicago has been trying to stand out from its elite rivals and is doing so in one category: amassing debt. That’s put its credit rating at risk.
Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

“Their view is that this is a time for us to make a lot more headway than we would during the regular arms race,” said Fred Prager, founding partner of San Francisco-based investment bank Prager & Co., the university’s financial adviser. “The money is going to the programmatic strengths.”

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A New Reality— Higher-education lobbyists keep expectations low for 2014

A New Reality— Higher-education lobbyists keep expectations low for 2014 | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

As legislative sessions begin anew, flat budgets and institutional accountability will dominate the discussion.

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

Eric Kelderman writes that "a new reality has set in about what [can be expected] from state" budgets.

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Yale's Struggles Signal Broader Challenges Ahead For Colleges

Yale's Struggles Signal Broader Challenges Ahead For Colleges | SCUP Links | Scoop.it
Harkness Tower, situated in the Memorial Quadrangle at Yale (Photo credit: Wikipedia) For some time, the business model that supports traditional colleges and universities has been breaking.
Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

For some time, the business model that supports traditional colleges and universities has been breaking.

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The Effects of Sequestration Budget Cuts on Private and Public Institutions

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

An important and potentially useful study.

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systerwoody's curator insight, November 17, 2013 5:44 PM

External-critical issues.

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Rising Debt Engulfs Colleges as Well as Students

Rising Debt Engulfs Colleges as Well as Students | SCUP Links | Scoop.it
Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

President Obama took aim last week at rising levels of student borrowing, but two graduate students in sociology say the real culprit for growing college debt is Wall Street.


In a report posted last week on the Web site of the Scholars Strategy Network, Charlie Eaton and Jacob Habinek, doctoral candidates at the University of California at Berkeley, assert that the expanding burden of tuition debt is “partly driven by the indebtedness universities have taken on.” Public research universities have passed along their own debt to students by raising tuition and fees by an average of 56 percent from 2002 to 2010, say the authors, who work in the branch of sociology known as financialization.


“Public research universities have increased their institutional debt dramatically over the last decade, and the money is not being used to make up for shortfalls in instructional budgets caused by reduced public funding,” the report says. “Instead, many universities borrow to invest in ‘auxiliary services’—the umbrella term for expensive facilities like dorms, dining halls, stadiums, and recreation centers.”


Using the federal government’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or Ipeds, the authors examined data from 155 public research universities and found that their debt-service payments had risen 86 percent from 2002 to 2010.

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The Unanswered Question: How Will We Pay for Aggressive Higher Ed Attainment Goals?

The Unanswered Question: How Will We Pay for Aggressive Higher Ed Attainment Goals? | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

"Certainly there are limitations to the model described, some of which I have identified and others which I'm sure readers will point out. It is currently being modified to eliminate some of its shortcomings.


But as flawed as it may be, it serves to point out several key points. First, different approaches to attaining goals have different cost consequences.


Second, in almost all scenarios, resources required by community colleges outstrip those that will be required by four-year institutions. This is a direct contradiction to priorities typically assigned in the appropriation process. Institutional costs can be reduced under an assumption of marginal costs being less than average costs, but this doesn't change the need to assign priority to funding for those institutions that will have to do the heavy lifting if attainment goals are to be met.


Third, the largest component of costs in both scenarios is student financial aid. The real-world examples reinforce the point made earlier in this paper that concentrated attention to the design of financial-aid programs is perhaps the key element in the development of cost-effective means of reaching aggressive attainment goals.


Finally, it drives home the point that reaching such goals will take substantial additional resources. Ways can be found to mitigate these costs, but success will be impossible without additional state investments."

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

"Dennis Jones, [a frequent SCUP presenter,] is president of NCHEMS, a nonprofit research-and-development center founded to improve strategic decision making in institutions and agencies of higher education. Jones is widely recognized for his work in such areas as developing public agendas to guide higher-education policymaking; financing, budgeting, and resource allocation; linking higher education with states' workforce and economic-development needs; and developing information to inform policymaking.

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Higher Ed Performance-based Funding and Completion Metrics

Higher Ed Performance-based Funding and Completion Metrics | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

While some schools are making changes to boost student outcomes, Finney says it is too early to know how institutions will change in the long term in response to performance-based funding. "Strong state-level data systems are necessary to determine changes in performance and to make adjustments accordingly," she says. "States vary in terms of the sophistication of their student unit record systems. This must be carefully aligned with the outcomes they hope that institutions will strive for."


"Any financial policy involves a series of trade-offs," says Tennessee's Deaton. While he and other state education leaders believe the positives of performance-based funding "far outweigh the negatives," he also says "until the model is road tested, you don't know for sure how it will work out."

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

Performance-based funding and measuring outcomes. A review of the states and a clear exposition of the current status by Nancy Mann Jackson in NACUBO's Business Officer magazine.

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Campuses or coalitions get flexibility in student aid, Department of Ed expands Experimental Sites Initiative

Campuses or coalitions get flexibility in student aid, Department of Ed expands Experimental Sites Initiative | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

"As part of the President and Vice President’s new actions to provide more Americans with the opportunity to acquire the skills they need for in-demand jobs, today, the Department is announcing a new round of“experimental sites” (ex-sites) that will test certain innovative practices aimed at providing better, faster and more flexible paths to academic and career success."

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

Is anyone out there doing this? Tell us how it works, please. "[T]he Experimental Sites Initiatives—or 'experiments,' as they are frequently called—tests the effectiveness of statutory and regulatory flexibility for participating institutions disbursing Title IV student aid. The Department of Education has waived specific statutory or regulatory requirements at the postsecondary institutions, or consortia of institutions, approved to participate in the experiments. By contrasting the results achieved with the flexibilities with results under current regulations, the Department has data to support changes to regulations and statute. The outcomes of experiments have the potential to benefit all postsecondary institutions and the students they serve.

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Student Loan Borrowers Win, Nightmare Forms Remain

Student Loan Borrowers Win, Nightmare Forms Remain | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

Narmak Nassirian has his finger on the pulse of what’s coming at higher ed in many areas. Last week, he appeared in both Time and the Huffington Post, with regard to student loans (see below).


SCUPers will get a chance to meet and hear Hassirian July 12–16 in Pittsburgh—at higher ed's premier planning event for 2014,  Plan for the Transformation of Higher Education. Register now.


  • Student Loan Borrowers Win As Education Department Reverses:

    Barmak Nassirian, director of federal relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said last month that the Education Department was not ‘sufficiently focused on its primary clients: students.’” [Time]

  • Student Loan Forms Are Still a Nightmare

    “‘The persistent complexity is partly because the financial-aid formula itself is so confusing,’ said Barmak Nassirian ... ‘With the FAFSA, it’s better to own your home, for example. ... Better than that is to own a farm, and better than that is to own a small business with fewer than 99 employees. [Huffington Post]’”
Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

Members of the Society for College and University Planning and their peers will get a chance to meet and hear Hassirian July 12–16 in Pittsburgh—at higher ed's premier planning event for 2014,  Plan for the Transformation of Higher Education. Register now.

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Finance Reporting Reimagined

Finance Reporting Reimagined | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

What if business officers could start over again to create an effective model of financial reporting that more clearly describes college and university finances? 

Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

The NACUBO Accounting Principles Council’s “Blank Slate Project” aims to do that.

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Moody’s Issues a Negative Outlook for Higher Education

Moody’s Investors Service on Monday issued a negative outlook for higher education in 2014—which should come as a surprise to no one. The bond-rating agency’s report last week, a survey of net-tuition revenues, was grim, and its outlook for higher education in recent years has been mostly bleak.


This year Moody’s cited a weak economy that will “affect families’ willingness and ability to pay for higher education.” It also anticipated federal budget pressures, including a looming sequestration threat, that could affect financial aid. ... 


[I]t’s hard to argue with another threat outlined by the rating agency: that expenses are outpacing revenue for the higher-education sector. “After multiple years of stagnant capital investment and tightened control of operating spending, pressure is building to invest in capital, information systems, faculty compensation, and program renewal,” the Moody’s report says.

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UP CLOSE | Funding an uncertain future

UP CLOSE | Funding an uncertain future | SCUP Links | Scoop.it
Almost five years after the onset of the recession, Yale is still facing a projected budget deficit of $40 million. Only about $120 million remain in the University’s rainy-day funds.
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Great News: College Enrollment Is Down « The Dish

Great News: College Enrollment Is Down « The Dish | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education is also heartened by the news:


Higher education enrollment has risen over the last 20 years, Hartle says, but the trend is counter-cyclical. During bad economies, people rush to finish a degree or pick up new skills. That’s why 2007 and 2008 saw a 13 percent increase in enrollment, the biggest jump in 25 years. The half-a-million person drop sounds big, he says, but it’s really just a return to normalcy. “Enrollment tends to level off or fall when the economy is improving,” he says. “Given how much enrollment surged during the economic downturn, a reduction was inevitable.”
Society for College and University Planning (SCUP)'s insight:

Are we ready for this?

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State funding upturn: familiar pattern or newfound importance for higher ed?

State funding upturn: familiar pattern or newfound importance for higher ed? | SCUP Links | Scoop.it

The 2014 legislative successes should allow institutions in numerous states to offer raises for the first time in several years, and to continue (or in some cases begin) to reinvest in programs or initiatives that have been cut or put off over several bad budget years.

That is a much more pleasant climate for campus leaders to operate in than was the one that has prevailed in recent years. On the question of whether the funding upturn represents merely a return to the normal cycle of increases in good times and cuts in bad, higher education officials are hopeful -- if not quite confident -- that something more is at play: a recognition by political leaders that higher education is essential to drive individual and state economic success.


"This is first and foremost about improved economic conditions in the states," says Daniel J. Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the state college association. "But there is some evidence that higher education has been prioritized to a higher degree than what current state conditions would have portended."

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