Higher ed leadership: Intensified focus on cost control and student success

“No margin, no mission!” is how one respondent to UB’s 2018 Outlook survey of campus leaders described the high stakes involved in raising more tuition revenue, non-tuition revenue and fundraising dollars in 2018.

Controlling costs is one of the top two institutional priorities noted by the survey’s 72 president, chancellor and provost respondents.

Nearly 6 in 10 say this will be more of a priority than in 2017. Enrollment declines may be driving the renewed vigor in focusing on funds.

Over 7 in 10 selected enrollment declines as their biggest financial worry for 2018. (Respondents represent a variety of school sizes; 65 percent are at institutions with 5,000 or less students and 35 percent at institutions with 5,000-plus students.)

Survey Insight: Security outlook

When asked about how others would grade safety and security on campus in 2018, 86 percent of presidents, chancellors and provosts gave a grade of A or B—and 37 percent believe the grade is an improvement over five years ago.

More than half of executive-level administrators identify a greater emphasis on budgets as one of the ways their own roles will evolve in the new year.

Mirroring past UB Outlook surveys, the other main priority is enhancing student success initiatives, with 86 percent naming it a top priority. Student services—a key piece of the success puzzle—are getting more attention; 60 percent of respondents say services will be a greater priority this year than in 2017.

Those getting the most renewed attention for 2018 are admissions and academic help/retention. The survey listed eight potential priorities besides student success initiatives and cost control, but each emerged as having much less focus.

The third top response, “evolving academics to meet 21st century needs,” garnered 44 percent. The next most popular priorities are capital projects and raising non-tuition revenue, with about one-third of leaders naming them as priorities.

Student unrest, campus protests and related reputational concerns have grown significantly in the past few years. Planning more events promoting diversity and tolerance on campus is the top related action anticipated in 2018.

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