That “we are all coronavirus fighters now” hit me with a vengeance when I cut short my Mexican vacation and settled into a regimen of hand-washing and social distancing. This applies no less to colleges and universities in the United States and across the world. Schools are canceling face-to-face classes, and many are sending students home or telling them not to return from spring break. I wondered how academic resourcing (AR) models—the subject on which I’ve worked during the past decade—will impact institutional efforts to combat the coronavirus and deal with its consequences. To put the matter bluntly, will the momentum toward data-informed decision-making that has been building over the last few years be blunted by the coronavirus emergency? I believe this outcome would be a real setback for higher education—and also that it is not supported, let alone dictated, by the facts of the situation.
Recently I revisited last summer’s joint statement by AIR, EDUCAUSE, and NACUBO entitled, “Analytics Can Save Higher Education. Really.” It’s something all of us analytically-minded higher education people can and should get behind. I’m thrilled that these three organizations have made analytics a priority, and that they are working to spread the information and knowhow that will spur adoption.
Reading the statement reminded me of the tools we had to rely on before the development of today’s academic resourcing models that I've been writing about in these blogs. The improvements are relevant for achieving the benefits described in the joint statement referenced above as well as my own Reengineering the University and forthcoming Resource Management for Colleges and Universities. I'd like to share some of my experience in the early days of higher education analytics to show just how big a change the current models portend, and why that change is so important.
I’ve been writing a lot here about how modern analytics can help a college or university make better academic program portfolio decisions. For example, which programs, if any, should be expanded, downsized, or eliminated. These are mission-critical because it is through degree and other formally organized programs that institutions present their teaching prowess to the marketplace. Faculty usually focus on individual courses, but students look at programs when they decide which school to attend and what they say about it to their parents and peers. Thinking about program portfolios holistically helps schools compete in the marketplace, serve students better, and manage course availabilities and staffing more effectively. These matters fall squarely into the wheelhouse of both academic and financial officers.
It should come as no surprise that margin, the difference between cost and revenue, emerged in blogs 1 and 2 as a key variable in the economics of teaching. What may be less obvious is that faculty and academic administrators need to take margin seriously. Conventional wisdom says that academics should focus on mission and its associated teaching and scholarly priorities while leaving the management of margin—and by extension the use of models that measure margin—to the institution's accounting and financial people. This blog describes why the conventional wisdom is wrong: why effective academic resource management requires mission and margin to be considered together, and why this is best done by the academic side of the house.
My first blog (October 2019) described how academic resourcing models allow institutional leaders and faculty to reshape their institutions through better resource management. This one takes a deeper dive into the new breed of inter