One way colleges have been cutting costs is by finding ways to outsource tasks, or share services, that are unrelated to the core competencies of those colleges. Today over 1,500 colleges and universities have partnered with either Barnes or Noble, or Follett, to manage their bookstores, and another 500 colleges have outsourced their computer help desks to companies. Colleges are also exploring ways they can share non competitive administrative costs including payroll and programming.
In an article in Educause, Luis M. Proenza, President of The University of Akron and Roy A. Church, President of Lorain County Community College writes:
“In these challenging economic times, colleges and universities must work together to attain academic and operational successes. The shared-services approach can help higher education institutions cut costs and better serve their students, faculty, staff, and communities. It is a model that can allow institutions to stay focused on the core missions of teaching, learning, and research. Partnerships and collaboration are the keys to the future of higher education in Ohio and in the world.”
A new area colleges and universities are exploring is sharing services in their career centers.
Investments in the career center have been traditionally small per student in relation to recruitment and other student services investments. For example, the average private college will spend over $3,000 to recruit each freshman student. With a larger marketing budget and bigger class size, the average state college will spend over $1,000 to recruit each freshman. Yet surveys by the National Association of Colleges and Employers show that in both state and private colleges, the average career center has less than $100 to spend to prepare seniors for their first professional job searches. If you spread their resources to include freshman, sophomores and juniors (who should be working on their career strategy) that number would be less than $25 per student.
We are living in a time where pressure from legislatures, parents, students and the media will require management to increase funding and resources to the career center. The legislature is increasingly holding college management’s feet to the fire to find ways to increase the number of students that:
- Graduate on time.
- Graduate with a job.
Surveys of parents and students are evaluating majors and colleges on their abilities to ensure their grads have a job by graduation day. In this new environment, in order to be competitive in recruiting and to match the demands of a new consumer and political environment, career centers will need to hire more career advisors, provide online career courses and content, and develop a four-year curriculum that students can follow which will ensure they have completed the steps necessary to explore career opportunities, acquire job search skills, create written career plans and build professional networks. This could easily reach $200,000 for a small college and could amount to over $750,000 for larger colleges and universities.
While private colleges have to balance their budgets and get approval for expenditures from their boards, and for-profit colleges ultimately get approval from their shareholders, the future of state colleges will be determined by the government entities providing them ever diminishing funding.
The Ohio legislature established an advisory committee that is coordinated by the Board of Regents Chancellor, Jim Petro. The Efficiency Advisory Committee is comprised of 40 people representing each state institution of higher education. It meets quarterly to discuss ways to generate optimal efficiency plans for campuses, while at the same time identifying shared service opportunities and best practices. The newly formed committee (Its first meeting was in September 2012,) is challenged to look at ways to not only reduce the cost of education for students and their families by reducing overhead, but to also improve the quality of service.
The shared-services concept is being accepted around the globe. HE-Shared Services Ltd (HE-SS) was formed in 2008 to help the 166 colleges and universities in the United Kingdom find ways in which they could identify significant efficiencies and help large IT vendors understand more about how the Higher Education sector is structured and works.
A shared-services approach will not change the way career centers operate. Centers would still advise and coach students, and organize and manage career fairs campus visits, and resume coaching. However, a shared-services approach could provide the career center with new technology, career curriculum, website management, marketing services to increase student participation, and career webinars, along with more analytics of effectiveness and even “overflow” career coaching during busy periods. In addition, it could offer more anytime-anywhere services including providing more services to graduates who are looking for jobs.
A centralized shared-service program can be branded so that resources, courses and materials will have the college logo and brand. It can be designed to provide marketing expertise that few college career professionals have time to acquire, to increase the buzz, excitement and student commitment to building career strategies.
By not having to duplicate services and hire more staff, the career center can remain nimble, reach more students, and at the same time provide more services. On top of that a shared-services approach is predicted to cut expected cost increases mentioned above by as much as seventy percent.
Should you be moving in this direction?
While I’d say yes, here are a couple of things you can do to see if this strategy is the right one for your college:
- Identify the type of services, tools and coaching you think will be necessary to stay competitive (if not a leader), and help more grads get jobs by graduation day.
- Determine which strategies could be implemented faster, and at a lower annual cost, by adopting a shared services model.
- Develop a business and implementation plan and present it to your management.
Now that you have a plan, you will be able to make a greater impact on a greater number of students sooner than later!
For more details on this pick up our white paper, Shared Services for Career Centers!