The State of Higher Education in 2016

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The 2016 edition of The State of Higher Education report points the way to decision-making that will sustain your institution, positioning it for long-term success.

You will find our thoughts on key industry developments and challenges facing higher education leadership, including those in setting and measuring key performance indicators, adopting social responsibility and sustainability, adjusting benefit plans, using data analytics, engaging faculty to improve financial performance, determining cost-benefit in research projects, establishing a presence in China, and creating transparency in communications with stakeholders. Our Higher Education and Not-for-Profit practices are committed to helping “organizations that do good” achieve their missions. Our higher education experience is deep, and we offer it to assist you with the challenges addressed in this report.

Read The State of Higher Education in 2016 online report.Browse these articles:

Maturing from adolescence into adulthood: Major factors shaping the sector in 2016
In this new level of maturity, there is no longer a rising tide to lift all boats. Colleges and universities will need to find new currents and ride them. Institutions will have to carefully pick initiatives, making clear choices about what to do and, most significantly, what not to do.

Enhancing stakeholder communications, transparency
Constituents are developing an increasingly voracious appetite for timely, relevant and specific information, and are voting with their feet and dollars for institutions that meet those needs. Leaders are proactively disclosing fiscal and operational performance to demonstrate transparency and a commitment to relationships between institution and stakeholders.

Setting aside uncertainty in strategic planning
Uncertainty describes not only the economic reality that higher education institutions are facing, but also an emotion generated by that reality ― one that often prompts leaders to resort to short-term plans instead of minding important long-term strategies.    

Keeping strategic goals in focus through KPIs, scorecards
Higher education institutions have been challenged to demonstrate that they are operating effectively and efficiently, and producing acceptable outcomes. These challenges have prompted institutions to develop metrics to demonstrate progress toward broad goals. It’s still a new business discipline for most universities, and results are varied.

Taking budgeting to the next level: Integrating the strategic plan
Budgeting is getting more and more challenging, especially for those institutions facing the most acute financial stress — namely, smaller regional private and public colleges and universities. Many have improved their budgeting practices, but many more must step up to not only survive but also to become more successful.

Achieving, measuring social responsibility, sustainability
Colleges and universities are preparing students to work toward a just and sustainable society. They’re doing so by modeling environmental and social responsibility, training students in responsible attitudes and actions, and measuring their work to assure long-term positive effects.

Utilizing data analytics to improve performance
To generate measurable results that also support mission achievement, colleges and universities are turning to data analytics for  meaningful patterns in data — financial and nonfinancial — that can describe performance, and predict and guide improvements.

Engaging faculty to improve financial performance
Faculty have the most at stake in the success of their college or university. Seven lessons show how you can broaden faculty’s perspective from individual to broader institutional performance and engage them to become a partner in change. 

Recognizing, averting risk of financial failure

Institutions in a precarious financial position have been known to compromise strategic goals, reduce critical investments in infrastructure, cut the extent and quality of services, and make other spending and revenue choices that begin to significantly challenge the institution’s ability to survive. Ten signals warn of risk.

Delivering an informed analysis of research activities
As appropriations and contributions are scrutinized — and contracted — research costs and relevance to mission are in the spotlight. To validate costs, benefits and trade-offs, institutions need business processes to provide data and technology systems to support analytics.

Redefining defined benefit plans to meet challenges, improve exits
Higher education institutions are doing away with overly generous defined benefit plans to make them more affordable and less risky. They are seeking the best approaches — mainly freezing pension plans with the ultimate goal of terminating them.  

Accepting China’s welcome to its higher education sectors

With a new demographic of eager students in China's fast-growing market, an enormous opportunity awaits institutions willing to work through regulatory and business hurdles in establishing a presence in China.

Download the printable report.

See also our State of the Not-for-Profit Sector in 2016 report.

2016 State of NFP