Notes from the field: NACUBO, new program opportunities, and principled growth

The Business Affairs Forum sent several researchers to the 2017 NACUBO annual meeting. The meeting convened in Minneapolis, Minn., under the banner of “Currents of Collaboration”—a theme referring to CBOs’ responsibility for bringing together diverse teams on campus in pursuit of common goals. While in Mill City, the EAB team participated in a range of sessions on topics related to ERP implementation, risk management, financial reporting, AMCs, and benchmarking—all in order to keep tabs on topics of greatest interest to CBOs and to connect them to themes covered by ongoing EAB research.

The emergence of a new learning economy

The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman opened the annual meeting with a keynote on his most recent book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. Mr. Friedman shared his views on how accelerations in technology and globalization are transforming how we live, work, and interact. His remarks on workplace transformation were particularly relevant to college and university business leaders. To be sure, business leaders are feeling the pace of technological innovation—the many impressive software and solutions providers in the vendor hall attest to that! Beyond using technology to enhance institutional operations, technological innovation is transforming the skills employees need to succeed in the workplace—and the education they require to develop them.

As technological innovation transforms traditional industries and careers, organizations need employees that can continually learn new skills. Mr. Friedman offered AT&T as an example. In response to rapidly changing workforce needs, AT&T recently partnered with for-profit provider Udacity to create nanodegrees—short-term credentials that employees can complete in as little as 6-months, teaching new skills like iOS development and front-end web design. AT&T’s new social contract with its employees merits note:

“If you want to be a lifelong employee at AT&T, you have to be a lifelong learner.”

Capitalize on the demand for lifelong learning

As the title of his book implies, Mr. Friedman is optimistic about this development. College and university business leaders should be, too. More companies looking for lifelong learners means more opportunities to partner with regional and national employers to meet emerging workforce needs. Many institutions are already responding to these needs by launching new academic programs in emerging and evolving disciplines. In addition to expanding mission, new programs provide opportunities to establish new revenue streams critical to long-term financial sustainability.

The Business Affairs Forum’s forthcoming research on achieving principled growth will preview some of the most promising new program opportunities for institutions across sectors: the best remaining opportunities in high-demand fields like data analytics and health professions; emerging trends in millennial program preferences; and ideas to scale existing resources to create low-cost new offerings.

We’ll also share proven strategies for business leaders to partner with academic leaders to successfully launch programs. At one institution, business, academic, and enrollment leaders meet quarterly to review market demand trends and generate new program ideas. Another institution supports faculty’s business planning efforts through a dedicated program development office.

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