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Evolving Higher Education Business Models: Leading with Data to Deliver Results

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Evolving Higher Education Business Models: Leading with Data to Deliver Results

December 30, 1899

This paper examines a network approach to leadership that creates transparency around institutional financial data using business model analysis. The network approach shifts shared governance from an emphasis on institutional dialogue and coherence towards institutional performance based on agreed upon metrics by empowering those on the front lines to make data-informed decisions that improve institutional practices aligned with performance outcomes.

As tuition levels rise, there are growing calls for fiscal responsibility and expectations that colleges and universities will use data to drive financial decisions and to tie expenditures to student outcomes. Many institutions, however, lack tools necessary to forge those connections and are forced to make financial decisions in the dark.

The paper supports the notion that financial decision making is best guided through business model approaches that prioritize data transparency, thus providing stakeholders visibility into the connections between expenses, revenues, and education outcomes. This level of transparency enables the exploration of the return on investment of cross subsidies across academic programs. In turn, this level of transparency requires an improved understanding of costs at the program and course levels, which will allow for data-driven program and course delivery.

As the higher education landscape continues to evolve, higher education leaders should continuously work to embed data-informed decision capabilities at all network levels, promote collaborative approaches to established performance outcomes, and utilize technologies that incorporate financial and outcomes data.

This report and its three accompanying appendix papers on financial data and change in higher education are funded by the TIAA Institute and were inspired, in part, by proceedings from a September 2015 ACE/TIAA Institute convening of college and university presidents, provosts, and chief financial officers who explored ways to improve the decision-making models pertaining to finance and innovation in higher education.




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