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Business Officer Magazine

Business Briefs

Short news articles based on research surveys and peers’ business experiences that can benefit institutions

Advanced Placement Examinations


Number of high school seniors who took at least one advanced placement (AP) exam in 2010.


Percentage of graduating seniors in the class of 2010 who scored a 3 or more (out of 5)
on at least one AP exam.


Percentage of AP test takers who were Latino.


Number of states that have achieved parity in the percentage of Latino and White high school seniors scoring a 3 or more on an AP exam.

Source: "The 7th Annual AP Report to the Nation" (The College Board, 2011). To view the entire report, click here .

Pilot Program of Solar-Powered Vehicles Shows Promise

With nearly 800 acres of academic campus and more than six million square feet of facilities, the University of South Florida, Tampa, is aggressively pursuing its sustainability goals. USF President Judy Genshaft signed the American College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment in April 2008. In 2010, our office of sustainability submitted a climate action plan, which includes our greenhouse gas inventory.

We were well aware that our fleet of electric golf carts and other alternate-fuel vehicles were playing an integral role in reducing the university's carbon footprint. Now, we've added solar panels to electric trucks and are trying out a similar idea on one of our golf carts as a way not only to further lower overall emissions, but to reduce pollution in the power-generation process.

Retrofitted Trucks Trim Energy

In mid-September 2010, our physical plant division purchased two flatbed trucks for $18,000 apiece, each powered by an electric motor and two banks of rechargeable batteries. The vehicles replaced two older gas-fueled pickup trucks. We've also recently added to our fleet a new electric-solar box truck for use by our postal department for mail delivery.

These changes alone would be a great step forward in reducing emissions and pollution, but USF went the extra mile by retrofitting the trucks with 130-watt solar panels on the cabin roofs. Electricity generated by the solar panels reduces the need for charging the batteries from the power grid, thereby further lowering the amount of greenhouse gases and pollution.

The physical plant's building services department uses the flatbed trucks to deliver supplies and equipment to various buildings. These flexible vehicles have gates on three sides to convert them into pickup trucks, each with a load-carrying capacity of 3,000 pounds.

Although the trucks are for on-campus use only, they are roadworthy for city streets, with four-speed manual transmissions and a capacity to travel 50-odd miles on a full charge. It is quite likely that the trucks will never have to be charged from the power grid because of the on-campus-only usage and the amount of sunlight in our Sunshine State, offering fuel-cost savings as well. Each time the need arises, we will revisit the option of acquiring additional solar-electric vehicles. At present, we are gaining valuable experience from our recent purchases.

University of South Florida's solar-electric truck (left) and golf cart

Conversion Can Supercharge Electric Golf Carts

In another effort to cost-effectively curb carbon, USF's physical plant division converted one of its electric golf carts to solar power as a pilot test. Positive results would be significant since golf carts are a vehicle of choice for the multitude of departments on campus who own them. Nearly 600 carts are used for facility maintenance, security patrols, campus tours, and staff's general transportation needs.

Completed in-house, the conversion was relatively simple, with the solar photovoltaic (PV) panel mounted on the rooftop of the cart. The panel produces electricity and charges the existing batteries on the cart. The test cart's panels cost about $800, including installation. Retrofitting the carts we already have is far cheaper than buying brand-new solar-powered carts that could cost $9,000 or more each. We've calculated the payback, in terms of power savings offsetting retrofit costs, in the range of 7 to 10 years, depending upon intensity of usage and the cost of electricity.

Jose Rodriguez, assistant manager in the maintenance department, uses the modified cart for daily job inspections and following up with his staff. In more than a year, the cart has never been plugged into the electric outlet for charging; all power needed for daily chores is supplied from the solar panel.

The office of sustainability and the physical plant division have developed an incentive program to encourage conversions of electric golf carts—which individual departments own and maintain—by jointly contributing resources. Conversion costs the departments $250 per cart, with a maximum right now of 10 carts per department. The offer was greeted with much enthusiasm and was fully subscribed within days of the announcement. In a few weeks, the grounds and vehicles department will begin converting to solar power the first batch of 10 golf carts.

We're pleased with the results of our pilot testing and the potential savings we're predicting. Meanwhile, the university is aggressively exploring all feasible options to reduce the campus's carbon footprint, while raising awareness of staff, students, and faculty. The administration has funded several projects that lower energy consumption and make good financial sense, including adding a School of Sustainability. Our solar-electric vehicles play a visible role in supporting these various sustainability efforts.

SUBMITTED BY Nainan Desai, assistant director, physical plant, University of South Florida, Tampa, and a member of USF's sustainability steering committee. E. Christian Wells, director of USF's office of sustainability, contributed to this article.

RESOURCE LINK For more information on USF's energy conservation and sustainability efforts, click visit the USF plant Web site and the office of sustainability Web site 

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Enrollment Soars With Online Associate Degrees

Tiffin University (TU), a small private university in Tiffin, Ohio, is quite dependent on tuition income to support its annual operating budget. Clearly, growing our enrollment is important for the financial health of our institution. While enrollment numbers have increased steadily in recent years at our main campus in Tiffin and at centers at several other Ohio locations, growth has been even more positive in the graduate and undergraduate programs that we offer in
the distance learning format.

Working with a private company to fund and develop online courses specifically for associate degrees, we've realized significant increases in our online presence. We now offer three associate's degrees (in business administration, criminal justice, and arts in general studies). Each degree requires successful completion of 61 semester hours—20 three-hour courses plus a one-hour freshman seminar.

Divide and Conquer

Several years ago, Tiffin's senior leadership recognized an unfilled niche related to enrollment—providing the means for more students to earn associate's degrees. In fall 2007, only 19 students were enrolled in associate degree programs. We thought that a good way to expand that number was to offer a number of online associate's degrees that could be earned via online programming. We began discussions with an investor group about forming a partnership that would combine its financial resources with our educational expertise. The result was a joint venture with Altius Education Inc. to create Ivy Bridge College of Tiffin University (Ivy Bridge), launched in 2008 with 65 students participating.

TU is responsible for all aspects of the academic program, as well as admitting students, collecting tuition, distributing financial aid, and handling certain other functions that must be controlled by an accredited institution. Altius provided all of the start-up funding for marketing, staffing, and other expenses, which was critical in helping to increase the enrollment from 65 students to approximately 1,600 students in two years. This rapid enrollment growth would not have been possible if TU had used the very modest funding that would have been available through our regular institutional operating budget, rather than sharing net tuition with our service provider.

Coach to Completion

While Ivy Bridge is still too new to demonstrate firm graduation rates, our term-to-term persistence rate (approximately 85 percent) is higher than the industry average for students in associate's degree programs. We think individualized attention has a lot to do with this achievement. Each student is assigned an individual "success coach," who is a full-time staff member of Ivy Bridge College of Tiffin University. The coach serves as a single point of the online student's contact from application through graduation. These individuals interact with their students each week and provide help with personal issues as well as academic issues.

Most Ivy Bridge students plan to continue their education toward a bachelor's degree, and a number of four-year colleges and universities throughout the United States have entered into agreements to accept Ivy Bridge graduates who wish to transfer after earning their associate's degree. 

A partnership between a nonprofit university and a private investment firm is one model (read about other models in "Out There," a feature article in the March 2010 Business Officer) that may be beneficial for institutions that could make use of outside funding to rapidly grow enrollments in new or existing programs or create other revenue-producing ventures. So far, this model is working for Tiffin University.

SUBMITTED BY Paul Marion, president, Tiffin University, Tiffin, Ohio
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