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Business Officer Magazine

A Cool Tool for Comparisons

Benchmarking college union activities and resources has become easier.

By Karen Bazur

While many campus divisions have easy access to data for benchmarking, college union and student activities departments traditionally have not had a way to retrieve this type of information. At the same time, the increasing focus on accountability in higher education has required having more than anecdotal or qualitative data. So a few years ago, members of the Association of College Unions International asked for a system to retrieve information needed to support proposals and new initiatives, justify budget requests, and understand how one college union compares to others.

In response, ACUI created a free member benefit in 2005: ACUInfo. This searchable Web-based data system contains information on topics such as facilities, programming, human resources, and finances. The two main features of ACUInfo are the data entry tool and the data reporting tool. The data entry component gathers almost 700 data points in seven sections. Sections can be delegated to various staff members for completion, making the survey more manageable.

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The real power of the ACUInfo tool lies in the report retrieval. Someone might want to know, for example, which institutions outsource their dining services; the square footage of a typical union ballroom at an institution of comparable size; the common custodial staffing level at another campus; or how much other institutions set aside for capital improvements. ACUInfo provides the results including raw data, general statistical information, specific responses by institution with contact information, and ratio data comparing the responses to other data points.

The reporting tool is dynamic—as soon as an institution completes the survey its information immediately becomes available. Members must submit their data to retrieve reports. ACUInfo reports are available to all departments at member institutions, and users can narrow the data they retrieve according to specified criteria. For more information about the tool, contact Karen Bazur at

Karen Bazur is administrative systems manager, Association of College Unions International, Bloomington, Indiana.