HERS Summer Institute, Week 1 Curriculum

The overall HERS Summer Institute Curriculum was just about evenly split between personal development initiatives and education on trends in Higher Education that we should be watching. I have largely covered the personal development topics in prior posts.

What trends in Higher Education should we be aware of?

  • Access
  • Accountability
  • Enrollment
  • Endowment
  • Economic Partnerships


We spent a considerable amount of time on issues related to access to education, especially how to pay for an education. In general, as cost increases, access decreases. In many ways access is tied to issues of Enrollment. How can you get the students you want to come to your institution?


In these post-Enron days, accountability pervades even the Ivory Tower of Education. Higher Education, like other businesses requires a focus on Strategic Planning, Budgeting, and Assessment. As one of our speakers pointed out, it is not strategic planning unless its tied to budget. Another big issue these days is emergency planning. What will your institution do when hit by another Katrina? Bird Flu? Sniper? 9/11 type attack? Missing student?


We looked closely at the tuition/enrollment demand curve. In the coming years, enrollment and being able to meet enrollment targets may very well be what separates school that prosper from those that do not. Our nation is changing. The demographics are changing. Incoming students are becoming more poor, less prepared, and more ethnically diverse. Many of them will be the first person in their family to attend college. How will we recruit and retain enough students to our institutions given these changes?

We spent a few hours on the mysteries of scholarships and tuition discounting (i.e. school scholarships offered for merit or need or some combination). This business is as complex as stock market day trading. One important note for parents out there. If University X offers your child a scholarship but s/he really wants to attend University Y to which s/he was also accepted, by all means let the admissions people at University Y know about the offer from University X. Depending on who they have already recruited, University Y may very well match or beat the offer. Admissions are incredibly competitive, especially as the pool of qualified students decreases. These days tuition is individualized and almost no one is paying full tuition.

Did you know that schools who lowered their tuition rates saw applications and enrollment go down whereas schools that increased tuition saw applications and enrollment go up? Shop carefully. You may be able to get a Mercedes education for the price of a Toyota. Just because the sticker price is higher does not mean the quality is higher. With tuition discounts averaging about 41% shop carefully.


In many schools tuition does not cover the cost of the education, thus schools with smaller endowments have a pressing need to raise additional funds. One person who spoke to us has served as a lobbyist for higher education. Like all fund raising, she had us focus on the why? who? and how? This topic was not covered but I think it is also important how the school invests their endowment funds. You might have seen the headlines about the hedge fund crashes (50% loss of a $3 billion fund) wiping or reducing endowments held for universities and private foundations. Unfortunately, I suspect we will see additional similar headlines in the coming days.

Economic Partnerships

More and more, businesses are directly having input into curriculum. This is good for business and economic development and good for the Universities that serve their local communities. Often these classes can be subsidized by the businesses that desire the training being provided, whether it is for call center etiquette or boat welding. If nothing else, the schools can be sure that demand for the classes will be high. Some of my colleagues in the HERS training seem to resist this trend of educaiton on demand. I suppose I’m more pragmatic. Why not provide this service if you have or can recruit the skilled faculty to teach the desired classes?

Resources for Higher Education – where can you find what you need? I had only heard of one of these (The Chronicle of Higher Education) before HERS. Think of these resources as homework for the program. It was suggested that we sign up for the daily news service from a variety of these to keep our finger on the metaphorical pulse of Higher Education.

AASCU – American Association of Colleges and Universities

NASULGC – National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges

CIC – Council of Independent Colleges

ACE – American Council of Education

AACU – Association of American Colleges and Universities

Academic Impressions

American Association of University Professors

Chronicle of Higher Education – I’ve been sucked into their forums lately

Inside Higher Education

Lumina Foundation – Helping People Achieve their Potential (I love this mission statement)

National Education Association

National Center for Education Statistics

These organizations will publish on compelling higher education topics such as in-state tuition for undocumented workers or their children, a hot topic here in Colorado.

Legal Issues

The in house counsel from Smith was one of our speakers. She spoke generally on Agency law, Contracts, Human Resources issues, Students, ADA, drug use on campus, disability accommodation, FERPA, legal holds on documents including email pending law suits, academic freedom, and harassment. We used a variety of case studies, based on real events, to better understand how these issues might arise in the classroom or elsewhere on campus. I think I have spent far too much time with my own institutional counsel but few of these issues were new to me. I was somewhat surprised that several of the educators in the room were unaware of FERPA since this act significantly limits how and with whom one can discuss or store student data.

Organizational Issues

By far one of the best ways to learn is to see how others have handled challenging situations. I mentioned Adrian’s challenge of becoming president in a prior post. I have severely condensed the 4 page case study that was presented to us.

The year was 1988. Adrian Tinsley was offered the job of President of the University. She was neither the first nor second choice of the Board of Trustees. One trustee told her “we knew you had very strong support on the campus, but we just could not believe a woman could do this job.”

Just what was Adrian getting into?

The past president had resigned, was convicted and imprisoned for financial misdealings. Applications and admissions were down. Donations to the Alumni foundation had nearly ceased. Faculty and students felt that the college’s reputation had been besmirched. Morale was understandably low. Making matters worse by the time she arrived, the state had just cut the budget due to a recession in New England. A student fee levy caused student outrage and legal action. The annual budget had not yet been set. Perhaps most importantly, the city had refused to connect the college’s new residence halls (needed for incoming students) to the city’s water and sewer systems.

What should Adrian do? What should she do first? How? Can you see the most pressing issue?

If you guessed that the number one issue facing Adrian was her water/sewer problem with the city, go to the head of the class. We had a dinner reception towards the end of our first week with some alumnae from past HERS programs. One, yet another past University President, shouted out as we went around the room to introduce ourselves “‘Adrian, fix the damned sewers!” This case study is used extensively in the HERS program and there was laughter all around. This was not the only issue and many others required more attention and more time to fix. Ultimately Adrian served 13 years. She had initially intended only to serve 4 or 5 but she wanted to finish what she had started, to see the successes blossom. She did but it took a long time.