innovative university

The 5 boldest university models in 2017

A new guide for trustees and academic leaders profiles successful efforts to increase affordability and high-quality education

Bold thinking and bold action from higher-ed trustees and academic leaders are essential if the next generation of students is to have access to high-quality and affordable education, according to a new report.

With a little creativity and engagement, though, trustees and campus administrators can implement policies and strategies that improve campus efficiency, accountability, educational quality, and completion rates.

Bold Leadership, Real Reform 2.0: Improving Efficiency, Cutting Costs, and Expanding College Opportunity, revisits schools profiled in an earlier report and provides updates on the schools’ initiatives and efforts to improve institutional quality and lower costs.

The earlier report urges higher-ed trustees to look at innovative university and system-wide models, such as shared course initiatives and online consortia, curricular consolidation, and the use of institutional analytics to identify bottlenecks and improve operations.

The authors note that the programs described in the profiles can serve as models for those who wish to achieve similar successes on their own campuses.

“This guide is a playbook for trustees looking to leapfrog the conventional wisdom about higher education finance,” said Armand Alacbay, ACTA’s vice president of trustee and legislative affairs. “Higher education’s traditional business model is increasingly unsustainable, so the need for engaged trusteeship is at an all-time high. Boards can play a significant role in improving institutional strategy and efficiency without compromising academic quality or raising tuition.”

Along with 5 system-wide profiles and campus case studies, the report also highlights various partnerships and initiatives launched in order to improve universities’ operations and performance.

(Next page: Innovative university models)

The University System of Maryland (USM) launched its Effectiveness and Efficiency in 2004 in the face of rising tuition and public perception that USM was wasteful. As a result, the system has saved more than a half billion dollars in costs, has held tuition increases to a minimum, has increased faculty classroom contact, and expedited time-to-degree. In 2015, USM launched the next phase of its innovative university initiative, which will focus on using predictive analytics to increase student success, improving procurement policies and procedures and conducting a systemic analysis of USM-owned real estate and assets in order to optimize use.

After facing system-wide problems in the wake of the Great Recession, the State University System of Florida (SUSF) adopted a performance-based funding model for schools in the system. The funding is allocated to each university based on its ability to improve compared to previous performance in certain areas.

The University Innovation Alliance (UIA) launched in 2014 in an effort to raise graduation rates across 11 public research universities. A governing board, consisting of the 11 university presidents and chancellors or their delegates, oversees UIA and they meet on a regular basis.

Purdue University‘s affordability initiatives extend far beyond the university’s ongoing tuition freeze. The “Back a Boiler” program, an income-share agreement (ISA) funded by the Purdue Research Foundation, launched in April 2016. An ISA is an innovative way to make education more affordable, and it differs from a traditional loan in that students do not pay interest on the amount they are awarded. Students receive funding from the Purdue Research Foundation and agree to pay back a set percentage of their salary after graduation over a term of nine years or less. Students’ obligations to make payments are linked to a specific percentage of their projected income.

(Note: You can find the rest of the system and campus profiles in the full report.)

“Higher education faces twin challenges: a crisis of affordability—a question of price and value—and a crisis of public confidence in the ability of universities to deliver on their promise,” Alacbay said. “Here, we take the opportunity to chronicle some of the true heroes of higher education reform, who are using technology, innovation, and inter-campus partnerships to enhance student outcomes while holding the line on costs. We believe this will be a valuable resource for trustees, who are ready to embrace change and strengthen their institutions.”

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Laura Ascione

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