Business / From Balanced Budgets To Leveraged Resources

From Balanced Budgets To Leveraged Resources

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Autor:  anton  26 July 2010
Words: 499   |   Pages: 2
Views: 389

As community college leaders, we pride ourselves on our ability to do more with less. We have responded bravely to the declines in resources allocated to higher education in the past few years. Our faculty and staff have assumed additional responsibilities, increased their loads, and focused on how to cut costs. We pride ourselves on the fact that community colleges generally have smaller staffs and more streamlined bureaucracies than other higher education sectors. Community colleges are generally acknowledged as cost-reasonable educational alternatives for students and taxpayers.

But do community colleges generally leverage resources effectively? Community colleges are nonprofit entities and, therefore, balancing the budget is too often used as the definition of fiscal success. During healthy economic periods, resources like personnel and facilities are not utilized in the same way as in weak economic times. Experiencing substantial growth in the 1990s, many institutions used increases in revenue to add programs, personnel and, in some cases, facilities. Consequently, the past few years of substantial reductions in state aid have forced many colleges to examine the use of these resources in ways few administrators have ever experienced. What if these resources were examined through the same lens in good times as well as bad? To move beyond success, community college leaders will have to shift to determining effective resource allocation through research. What resources bring what outcomes? How can we rise above reactive budgeting and spending?

To go beyond success, community college budgets obviously must be balanced. But significance calls for going beyond allocating resources to leveraging them. When decision making is guided by the notion of balancing the budget in good economic periods, there is little or no external pressure to make difficult resource decisions. With state budget cuts, the external trigger is suddenly requisite in order to make our facilities more efficient and to cut programs and staff, and often various budget components are reduced such as professional development or travel. Community colleges need data that demonstrate what it costs to effect success for students who are well-prepared versus those who are underprepared. We need to demonstrate what the public can and should expect for the investment they make.

The focus shifts to strategy, not serendipity, as student demand is balanced with efficient resource allocation. Colleges move to hybrid delivery of courses not because teaching resources are diminishing but as the result of intentional strategy to assure student access and success. The significant community college makes new modalities the learning signature of a community college education and serves as a broker of programs and services in the community. The significant community college, for example, does not create yet another welfare-to-work training program but enhances and complements existing programs in the community. Resources are not simply allocated but are collaboratively leveraged to create the maximum positive effect in the community.

Policymakers could maximize public resource impact by articulating fiscally prudent pathways to greater college participation. And community colleges must prove that the community college route leads to the greatest success for students.

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