President McGuire’s essay, “Restructuring Our Business Model,” is featured in the June/July 2009 issue of Business Officer, the monthly flagship magazine published by the National Association of College and University Business Officers in Washington, D.C. The magazine is distributed to more than 25,000 college and university presidents, CFOs and business officers.
“Restructuring Our Business Model” was published as part of a collection of essays in which “visionary leaders look below the surface of today’s troubled times and suggest actions that equip higher education for a new climate.” In her essay, President McGuire notes that “this economic moment offers five great opportunities to change the way we do business.” Her essay is published in its entirety below with the permission of NACUBO.
“Restructuring Our Business Model”
By Patricia McGuire, President, Trinity Washington University, Washington, D.C., June/July 2009 issue of Business Officer magazine. © NACUBO.
Rather than bemoaning the recession as a campus catastrophe, college presidents can seize this moment to accomplish some long-needed restructuring. By refocusing our energies on priorities that deliver high value to students and families, we can rebalance our budgets while rebuilding that most precious form of capital, the public trust.
This economic moment offers five great opportunities to change the way we do business.
1. Improve access to higher education for students who are most at risk of remaining marginalized after the recession. The federal stimulus package is the largest investment ever in educational access. By taking full advantage of the expansion of Pell Grants and other student aid, colleges have an unprecedented opportunity to reach more low-income students. We can also benefit all students by stabilizing tuition prices for the foreseeable future.
2. Take the ultimate “green” step forward by doing more with less. From our voracious use of paper to our snobbish insistence on new computers every two years, higher education’s gluttonous consumption of materials should now screech to a halt. We can provide real aid to students by insisting that faculty members plan their courses with more emphasis on digital materials and fewer requirements for expensive textbooks. Then let’s take the largest step yet toward rational consumption: to impose controls on our edifice complex, reducing the scope of our architectural fantasies while encouraging more adaptive reuse of existing spaces, along with more innovative use of technology to offset space demands.
3. Just say no to the obsessively wasteful interinstitutional competitiveness that’s more about money than learning. “Mine is bigger than yours” is a pretty silly endowment comparison in these shrunken dollar days. Because money is so 2007, this seems like a good time to toss out that U.S. News wealth scorecard and agree that we will spend our time reporting actual educational outcomes.
4. Put an end to archaic governance processes. We can no longer indulge academia’s notorious inability to make timely decisions. Faculty committees that exist mostly to block institutional change must go to the museum of resistance. Along the way, we need to have a serious discussion about “faculty work” and whether the time-honored components of workload—teaching, research, service—actually satisfy public expectations for accountability.
5. Respond constructively to external invitations for partnership. The Obama administration has an ambitious view of educational reform in K-12 schools; higher education should be an integral part of that reform, not a bystander defending traditional teacher education. The stimulus package also includes significant investments for workforce development in health care, science, and technology; universities should join forces with our business communities to get people working again.
Higher education’s ultimate opportunity in this moment is the contribution we must make to rebuilding the world’s economy. We presidents can start by making our own business practices a model for more effective stewardship of the public’s investment.