Smart Growth

Running the Academy by the Numbers

Topics: Capacity Planning, Academic Planning, Academic Affairs, Program Costs, Program Prioritization, Faculty Workload, Faculty Affairs, Space Utilization, Facilities and Operations, Administration and Finance

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Executive Summary

In the current climate of tight financial resources, colleges and universities are being asked to do more with less. Cost-cutting alone cannot solve the problem since most of the costs at colleges and universities are essentially fixed. Perhaps more importantly, no institution believes that it can “cut its way to greatness.” In fact, most educators see a zero-sum game in which cost-cutting inevitably harms both student access and educational quality. Therefore, the only way to rebalance the cost and revenue equation is to grow revenues while holding costs flat—essentially “growing into” your existing cost structure. For most, this means expanding enrollment in targeted programs without adding net new faculty lines or facilities.

This report—a joint research initiative between our academic affairs and business affairs research programs—profiles smart growth strategies of top institutions that maximize their instructional capacity based on a thorough analysis of capacity, costs, and student demand at the level of academic programs and individual courses. The research demonstrates that it is possible to significantly expand effective capacity without abandoning quality standards set by faculty (such as section caps or faculty workload policies).

Read the full study to learn:

  • How to remove classroom scheduling bottlenecks to free up space without building more classrooms
  • How to consolidate unnecessary sections of courses without shutting out students or increasing faculty course loads
  • How to reduce non-essential credits to improve time-to-degree while freeing up instructional capacity

Top Lessons from the Study