Templin said colleges must become more accountable for post-graduate job placements.

“We’re going to have to learn to own this,” he said.

Templin also focused on high-risk students. He faced challenges associated with serving a more diverse student body, and obtaining significantly better outcomes at a declining cost per student.

“We can’t accomplish that outcome by ourselves,” he said. “[We must] integrate with other institutions … jointly owning the results.”

By partnering with George Mason University (GMU), NOVA created the “Pathway to the Baccalaureate” program, which creates paths to college for high-risk high school students. The program prepares students for college and endeavors to make students’ transitions from high school to NOVA and, later, to GMU as smooth as possible.

Templin said that the “Pathway to the Baccalaureate” program blurs boundaries between high schools, community colleges, and universities.

With this program, “we’re jointly owning common outcomes across universities,” he said.

Rolf Wegenke, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (WAICU), explained that his association works with 23 private independent colleges to address lowering costs in a meaningful way.

“Collaboration is powerful,” he said. “By working together, we’re more powerful.”

Wegenke said that “change is hard” and that it all starts with college presidents—if they’re unwilling to test boundaries, then profitable change is unlikely. In the past, WAICU has worked with some colleges to rewrite their student health plans, and through doing so, the association discovered that it had tapped into considerable savings: In one instance, a college found that it could pay two-thirds less than it was currently paying for more precise care.

At the time, Wegenke said, many competitors dismissed WAICU’s mission, believing that because colleges had never before written their own health plans, it was impossible to change practices long ingrained in higher education; luckily, those critics were wrong.

“It took years to go from ‘that idea will never work’ to being nationally regarded as transformational,” he said.

Wegenke believes that technology will only continue to enable greater savings for colleges, and by consolidating costs through shared services, there are “massive amounts” waiting to be saved.

“Savings will ease the pain of change,” he said. “[WAICU] is not in the insurance business, we’re in the educational opportunity business.”


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