EAB’s Financial Sustainability Collaborative for the Academic Enterprise

Partner Service

EAB's Financial Sustainability Collaborative for the Academic Enterprise

Providing structure and tools to allow institutions to complete their own academic opportunity assessment

Every university leader is keenly aware of the financial health of their institution. In recent years, many schools have re-approached ways to improve the effectiveness of the academic enterprise, to surface meaningful growth opportunities and impact overall financial sustainability.

However, for most, it remains difficult to understand which program portfolio and student success opportunities are within reach and actionable.

5 lessons from the inaugural Financial Sustainability Collaborative

Discover five key budgetary and financial opportunities facing today's institutions and how to achieve desired results.

"Typical program prioritization efforts focus too heavily on cutting programs and immediately draw the skepticism of faculty.  We need a way to improve academic efficiency that helps us focus on the opportunities we can actually realize."

Chief Academic Officer

Public University

To help our university partners surface meaningful growth opportunities, EAB created the Financial Sustainability Collaborative for the Academic Enterprise. The Collaborative leads institutions through a series of guided workshops focused on instructional capacity and student success.

Introducing EAB's Financial Sustainability Collaborative

The collaborative focuses your institution on three key drivers of academic costs and revenues and helps you build a strong plan and a transparent process for achieving financial sustainability.

What is the Financial Sustainability Collaborative?

The collaborative consists of a three-month, EAB-led curriculum that provides each participating institution the tools and guidance to assess its own academic fitness and the scope of opportunity for improvement. Assessing the fitness of the academic enterprise is critical, but challenging, and EAB’s work across the past decade or more has provided deep insight into the process, pitfalls, and successes in evaluating the delivery of academic content and the conferral of degrees.

This collaborative is designed to provide the analytical process and framework which allows institutions to accelerate the analysis and prioritization of the largest financial opportunity within their academic operations. We have created do-it-yourself guides for evaluating the opportunity from the three key drivers:

Three key drivers of academic revenues and costs

Realizing academic efficiencies

Prioritizing academic programs

Improving retention and persistence

In each cohort, EAB works with up to 30 schools and every institution completes analyses specific to its own circumstance—each school pulls and analyzes its own data, gathering information about its students, course offerings, and faculty.

The collaborative benefits schools in two major areas:

The curriculum grew out of work we did with one of our partners—a regional public university. The school’s leadership team had been tasked with cutting 15%+ of their academic affairs budget and turned to EAB for guidance—how should they determine what got cut and by how much? Where should they allocate the resources they had after those cuts? Should they eliminate some programs? Look for scheduling or other efficiencies? Or could they do something about student attrition? 

Figuring out how best to right the school’s financial picture required the analyses that comprise our financial sustainability curriculum. Through this three-month collaborative, EAB can direct your institution to the data you need, the systems in which you will find that data, and the analyses you need to undertake to create a baseline understanding of the opportunities on your campus.

Institutional teams at each school in the collaborative work across the three-month period to create an opportunity assessment—allowing teams to generate an estimate of how much money could be generated or saved within your academic enterprise from each of these three strategies.

The schools that have taken part in the collaborative have used the data and analysis from the opportunity assessment exercises as a catalyst for driving action and activity to begin work to capture the most meaningful opportunity for their campus.

One provost at a small private university initiated a student-loss mitigation campaign after EAB analysis revealed the magnitude of the annual financial loss from attrition. The collaborative’s attrition curriculum also included the tools to begin capturing some of that opportunity: best practice case studies that showcase alternative approaches; templates for committee structure and membership; guidance on campaign goal setting and samples of campaign content.

These materials, and EAB’s guidance in deploying them, allowed this institution to quickly stand up and direct outreach targeting unregistered students which generated over a quarter of a million in revenue in a couple of months.

Interested in joining EAB's Financial Sustainability Collaborative?

Collaborative participants will learn best practices, share their progress and roadblocks, receive advice from each other, and benefit from coaching from EAB expert advisors. 

We believe difficult tradeoffs and strategic investment decisions must be made by the judgement of your institutional leaders based on your mission and values and in consultation with your faculty and other stakeholders. Our role is to help you identify the best options, assess their likely implications, and facilitate a transparent process that will build consensus on a way forward.

In some ways, creating an initial set of recommendations is the easy part. Implementing change over the next three to five years is the bigger challenge. That’s why we’ve adopted a long-term support model rather than a one-off engagement. We can help you make sure that your plan is implemented and its full impact achieved. Through detailed action and accountability plans and regular check ins with your EAB strategic leader and expert advisors, we will support your key strategic initiatives through to completion. We are in this with you for the long-term as a trusted partner, not just for a single difficult decision during a crisis.

The ultimate objective is to help you attain stability AND set you on a path of continuous performance review and improvement so that you can avoid the kinds of painful cuts that many institutions now face.

  • Estimate achievable targets for revenue growth and cost savings
  • Communicate external and internal challenges in a clear and compelling way to stakeholders
  • Identify the main drivers of performance in enrollment, retention, academic efficiency, and instructional productivity
  • Quantify the implications of different options to help you assess tradeoffs
  • Every participant will create an Academic Opportunity Assessment that identifies the most promising options for your institution
  • Every participant will develop a prioritization rubric to identify programs that merit continued investment, revitalization, or possible discontinuance
  • Within six months of kick-off, every participant receives a Plan of Action and Accountability to guide implementation of the selected recommendations and approaches

Ready to join the collaborative, or want to learn more?

EAB's Financial Sustainability Collaborative is appropriate for every school eager to evaluate the financial fitness of the teaching and learning enterprise. Our upcoming collaborative dates are:

  • Realizing Academic Programs: September 30, 2022 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Assessing Academic Programs: October 27, 2022 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Improving Retention and Persistence: November 30, 2022 from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. ET

If you'd like to participate or learn more, please contact your strategic leader.

More on financial sustainability

5 lessons from the inaugural Financial Sustainability Collaborative

Discover five key budgetary and financial opportunities facing today's institutions and how to achieve desired results.

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