About NACUBO Consulting
When demands on higher education are extraordinary, NACUBO Consulting is your partner in practice. We bring expertise, experience, and leadership abilities to every engagement, but most importantly, we increase your capacity in critical areas. Our goal is to realize a return on investment for every client.
NACUBO Consulting understands the external forces impacting your institution and day-to-day operations. Our seasoned consultants know how to navigate a campus environment, spot problems, and fix the issues. We combine industry knowledge with a boots-on-the-ground work ethic.
Our customized engagements are defined investments that offer immediate return in value to your institution without adding overhead costs. Project-based and expertise-driven, we work alongside you to solve problems and accomplish goals.
During this unprecedented time in higher education, we can help with the expected—and the unexpected.
- Executive Coaching / Mentoring, Financial Forecasting / Assessment, Operational Assessment / Consulting
Debating the merits of outsourcing a bookstore
Large Public Flagship Institution
A large public flagship was debating outsourcing its bookstore, which was operating in the red after changing its location on campus and eliminating some services. While these decisions reduced operating expenses, were they also to blame for the reduction in revenue? NACUBO Consulting was hired to assess the bookstore’s operations and recommend next steps.
An assessment of freight costs uncovered a significant cost driver: expeditated orders. Late enrollments and changes to class sizes forced the bookstore to order additional materials at the last minute—or else jeopardize student success and customer service. Not only were expeditated orders expensive, they required so much attention at the start of the semester that the on-time orders were often not monitored and resupplied.
The consultants realized that the solution to a more profitable bookstore was to be found in redesigning how both academic affairs and the bookstore operate together. They recommended a completely revised system for how course materials are adopted, processed, and streamlined that focused on reduced costs and increased student success. Additionally, the consultants recommended that all digital components be transitioned to an established third-party program that allows for direct digital access to certain course materials through the learning management system. Doing so would dramatically reduce shipping and inventory costs and enable immediate access to course materials.
With these and other recommendations, the bookstore will stay in-house for at least the next three years, and a plan was created to make the bookstore regain profitable margins that will decrease the university’s overall expenses.
- Financial and Operational Assessments
Evaluating the necessity of adjusting a tuition and enrollment model
Small Private School
A small private school was concerned that its tuition and enrollment model needed refinement. Specifically, they wanted to understand if net revenue gains were possible through increased tuition or was their only solution increasing enrollment through new programs? NACUBO Consulting was asked to create a predictive model of the current pricing strategy and simulate increased tuition on yield and enrollment numbers, including program-specific tuition or fee increases. The school had worked with another enrollment firm prior to their engagement with NACUBO, but senior leaders wanted a deeper dive.
Among other findings, the model found that increasing student headcount by more than 125 additional students would require a significant increase in discounting and also result in decreased net revenue and unnecessary increased expense to support these additional students. As a result, the institution is now focused on modest enrollment growth with no growth in their discount rate, plus a greater emphasis on retention. The model also identified two groups of students who failed to attend despite expectations and, more importantly, a demographic profile of these students. Moving forward, these subpopulations will now be targeted with specific outreach and individualized need-based aid allocations.
By testing and recalibrating predictions, NACUBO consultants were able to advise senior leaders on their strategic enrollment goals, narrowing their focus to the most effective practices in a difficult time.
- Models and Budget Forecasting
Identifying budget savings through strategic resource utilization adjustments
A special-focus institution needed to identify over $600,000 in improvements to their bottom line within the next two fiscal years. The situation was becoming urgent: if the school continued to operate at a deficit, it would be in violation of its debt covenants. NACUBO Consulting was brought in to find a combination of cost savings and revenue increases that would resolve this immediate problem and get the institution operating in the black for the first time in three years.
NACUBO Consulting, in coordination with the institution, investigated staffing and evaluated teaching loads against non-teaching activities. The analysis showed that full-time faculty were spending about half their time on non-teaching activities. From an internal perspective, this split seemed necessary, but the NACUBO consultant had seen a successful model at a similar school, where many of these same activities were accomplished by less-expensive professional staff. Reassigning these activities and increasing teaching loads reduced the required number of full-time faculty—which was achievable given the near-retirement status of some faculty and other personnel changes at play. This recommendation, along with other staffing reallocations, resulted in more than half the needed improvement to the bottom line.
The other side of the coin focused on recruitment, as the future of the institution depended on increasing enrollment. It was already using a well-known marketing firm to dial-in the student profile, but it needed to leverage that vendor relationship to get better results. Having experience with that firm and their proprietary tool, the NACUBO consultant was able to identify specific skills gap in the admissions office that was preventing greater results. Additionally, the consultant recommended a position be created that would increase the effectiveness of the vendor relationship and fill a critical marketing need—all in the name of increased enrollment.
The institution has implemented changes to staffing and teaching loads, and it currently hiring for a new position in the admissions office. It is on track to become profitable in less than one year.
- Recruitment Assessment,
- Net Revenue Analysis,
- Faculty Utilization Assessment
Facilitating challenging decision-making among campus leaders
The board of a religious institution was having a significant meeting: the school needed to improve operating performance in the shorter term, with particular attention to academic personnel and strategy, administration, enrollment management, and online expansion. The trustees wanted to ensure that their discussions were productive, at the appropriate level, and, most importantly, aligned with the strategic plan.
NACUBO Consulting was brought in to facilitate these conversations, keeping the discussion focused on intermediate-term strategies that a) improved operating performance, b) accounted for current and predicted trends in higher education, and c) honored the school’s Christian character. With the help of the neutral NACUBO Consultant, each part of the meeting had a stated end-goal.
The consultant led trustees in a targeted and meaningful discussion that resulted in decisions being made on key issues, thereby giving the president and CFO the clear guidance needed to move forward. The board left the meeting with an active understanding of the issues and felt like their contributions were targeted and valuable.
- Strategic Planning Facilitation,
- Board Consultation