Denison's strategic plan focuses on outstanding education
In a recent article for the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), Denison’s Vice President of Finance and Management, David English, outlined the college’s strategic financial plan that balances financial resources with competing priorities by creating a strategic plan focused on outstanding education, supported by strong infrastructure and steady asset growth.
“Denison has implemented a strategic plan for 2015–20 that will allow us to deepen student learning—our mission—in ways that enhance student enrollment, student outcomes, institutional visibility, and all initiatives that the institution needs to remain financially healthy.
“The university’s leadership has recognized that successful organizations are those that look forward during a period of strength. We also foresee that higher education—especially the segment of well-endowed, residential, liberal arts colleges—is in the midst of a period of turbulent change at least as severe as that created by the market decline of 2008.
“All across our sector, the shock of that sudden recession caused concern in college business offices around the nation. For schools with healthy endowments, the plummeting economy heightened concern about the ability to support operating costs in the face of sharply decreased endowment balances. Many of these colleges looked to offset lower endowment values, and concomitant lower endowment appropriations, by increasing tuition revenue.
“However, the financial market decline affected not only the balance sheets of higher education institutions, but those of families as well.
“Schools without high endowment-to-student ratios weathered 2008 relatively well—as the low per capita endowment value meant endowment appropriation was not a significant portion of the operating budget—but soon experienced revenue pressures, as lowered asset values impacted families’ ability to pay for college, and tuition revenue was a major component of operating revenue.
“As families generally had relied upon savings to help pay college expenses, their ability and willingness to pay for higher education decreased just when institutions were looking for greater net revenue per student—or at least greater net tuition revenue overall.
With total revenue driven by the formula of net price multiplied by volume, and families more resistant to higher costs, many colleges needed to achieve enrollment growth.
“Naturally—and unfortunately for college business officers—with many colleges fighting concurrently to grow enrollment, tuition discounts became more common and discount percentages continued to rise.
“The consequence of this competition for students has persisted through today, even for schools in the topmost tiers.”