Ed Reforms

Trustee Guide Acts as Playbook for Institution Innovation

For American colleges and universities to remain robust, they need to seek out "bold, dynamic innovation," according to a new report issued by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. The 48-page report is a follow-on to one published two years ago, describing more than a dozen innovative initiatives undertaken at a "broad range of schools." This time around, the new guide examines some of those programs to find out which ones held up. It also offers "fresh examples" of schools pursuing new kinds of projects.

"Bold Leadership, Real Reform 2.0: Improving Efficiency, Cutting Costs, and Expanding College Opportunity" profiles many different forms of "reform."

At the state university system level, the State University System of Florida's 2014 "performance-based funding model" is described. The report also looks at how the University System of Maryland undertook its second "effectiveness and efficiency" initiative in 2015, relying on predictive analytics to improve student success, as well as changes in purchasing to procurement policies and procedures, particularly pertaining to three areas: research, technology transfer and cybersecurity.

Inter-campus collaboration describes projects that address two kinds of problems: delivering vital programs that have small enrollment numbers and raising graduation rates. In the first category the Sunoikisis Project, a national consortium of Classics programs, gets a nod. For the second, the report covers the University Innovation Alliance, launched in 2014 and implemented in 11 public institutions from Florida to Oregon. What they have in common is "socioeconomically diverse student bodies," with at least a third of students being Pell-eligible. According to the report, the alliance has laid out five potential projects, such as adaptive learning and targeted student supports, structured primarily to help low-income students. Since coming together, the alliance's member schools are on track to increase the number of students who will graduate by 94,000.

The document also profiles individual institutions and their efforts, such as Purdue University, which instigated a tuition freeze, which will continue through the 2018-2019 academic year. (In-state students pay $10,002 in tuition.) The university has also developed an income-share agreement, a loan program in which students don't pay interest; they agree to pay back a set percentage of their salary after graduation over a term of nine years or less.

The goal of the report is providing stories that can serve as a template for other institutions' boards, said Armand Alacbay, the organization's vice president of trustee and legislative affairs, in a prepared statement. "Higher education's traditional business model is increasingly unsustainable, so the need for engaged trusteeship is at an all-time high. Boards can play a significant role in improving institutional strategy and efficiency without compromising academic quality or raising tuition."

The report is openly available on the council's website here.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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