Higher education funding needs an innovation makeover–here’s how

By Meris Stansbury
August 26th, 2015

How can states and institutions redesign funding models to better support student outcomes and new innovations in practice and services?

funding-innovation-campusFrom new student learning pathways to questioning the merit of the credit hour, and from the move to enterprise cloud solutions to online learning models, colleges and universities are in innovation warp drive. Unfortunately, most funding models are stagnating under antiquated institutional and state-based policies.

How can institutions restructure financial policies and models to support the innovation required of them?

From an in-the-trenches perspective, Paige Francis of Fairfield University argues that nowhere is innovation most prevalent, or critical, than in IT, and that only when institutional budgeting transitions from capital expenditures to operational dollars will funding be “as nimble as the technology it supports,” and able to support innovation:

“We are moving toward a more hosted technology environment, which enables our IT workforce to focus more on refining processes and procedures, empowering us to work smarter and harder on things that have an impact on an institution’s core mission and bottom line.

With this trend comes a very real problem. Current expenditures formerly known as capital are now operational. Cloud, out-sourced, remote solutions all typically involve a subscription or routine monthly/annual fee. Not unlike technology as a whole, individual technology solutions today are pervasive, day-to-day, integrated products and services.

In other words, technology is primarily operational.

In a world where suddenly it’s not unheard of for a university’s technology offering to directly impact recruiting, attracting and/or retaining students, technology matters more than ever. If a higher education institution is not willing to morph its technology funding model to be as nimble as we want our technology to be, IT leaders will be forced to continue with legacy systems, regardless of whether or not they further innovation or support the school’s core mission.

Therefore, the question becomes, “How can funding models be improved so that they support, rather than thwart, innovation?”

There exists no single pill that will remedy our legacy funding models. It is, however, as easy as 1-2-3 to begin an internal dialogue to reform the process within each institution…” Read more of Francis’ piece on this month’s Symposium.

(Next page: Rethinking state funding policies for innovation)

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