Dear BI Career Consultant:
What funding strategies can development officers create to offset state mandated budget cuts to my university?It is common knowledge that the costs and funding of public sector higher education have escalated and become more complex. The findings from a recent national report “Losing Ground: A National Status Report on the Affordability of American Higher Education” are alarming on many levels. While there has been an increase of state support for financing colleges and universities over the last decade, 41 of the 50 states have incurred budget deficits that have forced them to reduce their higher education appropriations. In response, these institutions have increased tuition. The average increase — and burden on students and families — has been 7.7 percent nationwide, but in some states tuition hikes have been much higher: for example, 35 percent in Ohio and 42 percent in Michigan. Even colleges such as mine that have been spared state budget cuts face various economic strains, such as the rising cost of heath insurance and other expenses that make innovative approaches to revenue production necessary.
The implications for low-income students and their families are devastating in this environment. The cost of attending college has outpaced inflation, family income and even increases in federal aid and loan programs. Low-income families spend 12 percent of their total income for higher education, which means that the ever-increasing price of tuition has made higher education inaccessible to many.
Clearly, tuition and fee hikes are not the answer: Colleges and universities must find alternative ways to finance the cost of education.
I propose here that innovative partnerships with the business community, various nonprofit entities and all levels of government (from local to federal) would be the most viable solution to problems of continued higher education access and affordability, especially for students of color with low and moderate incomes.
Current examples of such partnerships already exist — at the Centennial Campus of North Carolina State University in the city of Raleigh, at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and Greater Baltimore Technology Council, and at the University Heights Science Park created by the Council for Higher Education of Newark, New Jersey.
Many economic, social and educational benefits derive from such partnerships. In some cases, external grants and contracts pay salaries, benefits and other operational expenses; in others, new facilities including hotels and conference centers generate income for the school, which can be used to create new internships and scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students.
Higher education leaders must remain creatively engaged to achieve and maintain such strategic partnerships. Indeed, institutional leaders may have to learn to think like higher education entrepreneurs in order to generate the innovative approaches needed to initiate strategic and synergistic partnerships with businesses, nonprofits and government entities.
We in the higher education community must realize that we can no longer deliver high quality education exclusively with our own economic and intellectual recourses. Partnerships extend beyond the typical domain and responsibilities of most development offices or offices of continuing education. Thus, our educational leaders must learn to think and act beyond our academic and institutional comfort zones because the future of higher education and the future of our nation depend on our success. Annie Allen Elcock
Assistant to the President for Institutional Planning
Essex County College
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