As state appropriations continue to erode, public universities are re-envisioning their revenue streams.
One university bought a conference resort. Another is building biomass facilities that generate energy. Yet another might expand its renowned food service operation to also serve other institutions.
Three different institutions, three quite different activities. Look beyond the differences, though, and several common themes emerge. Each activity can generate revenue. Each is fundamentally entrepreneurial. And none is predicated on state funding.
In the greater landscape of public colleges and universities, these three activities may be exceptions that prove a rule. Certainly not every AASCU institution could or should buy a hotel, build a biodigester or franchise its food service. Still, these three examples underscore an emerging principle of the “new normal,” which is that today, every public college and university needs to think anew—and broadly, creatively and entrepreneurially—about how to generate income.
Winds of ChangeIs Higher Education Experiencing a Shift in Delivery?
That’s how Ray Schroeder, associate vice chancellor for online learning at the University of Illinois Springfield
(UIS), initially described to a colleague the “massive open online course” (or MOOC) he was organizing.
The course, eduMOOC, went live last summer, focusing on the topic, “Online Learning Today . . . and Tomorrow.” Drawing nearly 2,700 participants from 70 countries, eduMOOC sparked intellectual discussions throughout cyberspace, ranging from how online learning will affect traditional higher education to how social network media can enhance online learning. A
group of participants in New Zealand even gathered weekly at a McDonald’s restaurant to view the recorded presentations and engage in lively face-to-face dialogue.
“I am amazed that so many eduMOOC participants are networking, tweeting, blogging, discussing,” Schroeder wrote on his July 4, 2011, blog post. “Normally, I would need to motivate students in my classes to do this. Those students are paying tuition and fees. eduMOOC participants are not. Yet, they are the ones who are motivated, energized, enthusiastic. I ponder
why that might be.”
The President and the Chief Academic OfficerPresidents and Practices
Having served as both president and as chief academic officer (CAO), I am convinced that the latter is not only the most challenging position on campus, it may also be the most important. The relationship between the president and the CAO is critical, and its dynamics are crucial to an administration’s success.
The president must surround herself with people who are highly competent, committed, creative and articulate self-starters. Neglecting to select those with these traits will doom an administration to failure or, at best, mediocrity. Absent such individuals, the president must fill these other roles herself, thereby limiting her ability to meet her own basic responsibilities. The selection of the CAO, therefore, is of particular importance.
Higher Education as a Catalyst for Regional TransformationEndsights
The evolution of American higher education is a complicated romance with many dimensions. Higher education is a central element in the emergence and well-being of the nation. A close analysis of the evolution of higher education in the U.S. reveals strategic junctions and times of significant challenges. In each era, academic institutions were responsive, action was taken, and both higher education and the nation’s well-being were strengthened. The time has come for a new paradigm for higher education as a catalyst for regional transformation. The goal of regional transformation is to achieve ongoing regional economic growth and prosperity. This is done through enhancing a sense of identity and forming a collaborative framework.