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Business Officer Magazine

Business Briefs

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

Creating a Tobacco-Free Campus

Grant-Aid Particulars

$11.7 B

The total amount of institutional grant aid awarded in the 2007–08 academic year to full-time, full-year undergraduates by four-year private nonprofit (independent) institutions.


The share of full-time undergraduates at four-year independent colleges and universities who received institutional grants during the 2007–08
academic year.


The average institutional grant award received by full-time undergraduates at four-year independent colleges and universities.


The percentage of the average 2007–08 tuition and fee “sticker price” covered by the average institutional grant award for full-time undergraduates.

Source: The 2007–08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, Undergraduate Data Analysis System, April 2009.

Banning tobacco use on campus is gaining momentum. In Pennsylvania, such a ban has taken the form of a law, which took effect in September 2008, prohibiting smoking anywhere on state-owned higher education campuses. According to the American Lung Association of Oregon, 146 colleges and universities in other states, including the University of North Dakota (UND), Grand Forks, have instituted policies calling for 100 percent tobacco-free campuses.

While the time may have come for prohibiting tobacco use on U.S. campuses, adopting effective policies requires considerable effort, wide outreach, and ongoing oversight, as UND's journey illustrates (for more details, see sidebar, “Tackling the Tobacco Issue”). The university adopted a formal policy in October 2007, but its efforts to support a tobacco-free environment began in 2000.

Making the Economic Case

UND's leaders didn't need to conduct a study to know the institution would benefit economically from insisting on a tobacco-free campus. “We knew that any minor costs in implementing the policy would be easily offset by reductions in tobacco-related illness and lost productivity,” says Laurie Betting, UND's assistant vice president for wellness. “The Society of Actuaries,” explains Betting, “has determined that secondhand smoke costs the U.S. economy roughly $10 billion a year: $5 billion in estimated medical costs and another $4.6 billion in lost wages. In addition to causing direct health hazards, smoking contributes to college costs in other ways, including potential fire damage, cleaning and maintenance costs, and costs associated with absenteeism, health care, and medical insurance.”

The use of tobacco is prohibited within UND buildings, parking structures, walkways, arenas, university or state fleet vehicles, and on university-owned property not otherwise leased to another organization. (Tenants of leased properties are encouraged to establish tobacco-free worksite polices for their own employees). While UND has no jurisdiction over city-owned streets, sidewalks, and rights-of-way, the university encourages cooperation with the spirit of the policy.

Building Consensus

At the grand opening of the university's Wellness Center, in 2006, then president Charles Kupchella encouraged UND to consider becoming a tobacco-free campus. This event served as the springboard for a yearlong series of conversations and educational efforts. A small, but vocal, minority opposed to the policy communicated its views through graffiti, a protest, and a Facebook group. Campus forums allowed people to express opinions and ask questions. These comments provided the framework for the frequently asked questions that guided the work of a task group of students, faculty, and staff charged with drafting the policy and recommendations. The president, his cabinet, and the council of deans were on board, and resolutions of support were passed by the university senate, staff senate, and student senate before UND decided to implement the policy.

Enforcing the Ban

UND has opted to take “a positive rather than a punitive approach” to enforcing its tobacco ban, says Betting. “It is the shared responsibility and the right of all UND staff, students, and faculty members to encourage compliance with the policy.”

Anyone who observes an individual on the UND campus violating the ban may inform the individual of the tobacco-free policy.

“We realize that changing our culture to a tobacco-free campus is a work in progress,” says Betting. “We continue to address concerns from those who struggle with a lack of punitive recourse for violation and those who object to the policy and who question the university's right to restrict their behavior, especially in outdoor environments. In addition, we recognize that the population of our university is ever evolving. These issues magnify the importance of sustaining adequate communication, signage, and cessation support after the policy is in place.”

Tackling the Tobacco Issue

Higher education institutions considering a move toward a smoke-free or tobacco-free campus would do well to heed the advice of officials at the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks: Don't reinvent the wheel. A multitude of resources is available to help you review the actions other institutions have taken and craft a policy appropriate for your college or university. Take a look at the following Web sites:

Providing Policy Insights

The UND business and wellness offices offer the following suggestions for ensuring a smooth transition to a tobacco-free campus:

  • Allow 18 months to two years to fully implement the policy. This allows time to engage all constituencies, communicate the policy change, and incorporate the policy and the rationale into various publications and orientation activities.
  • Plan for adequate signage. This is a key step, because everyone-including visitors-needs to be aware of the tobacco-free campus policy. Install clearly visible, permanent signage in high-traffic locations on the perimeter of the property and within the property, especially in areas where tobacco users tend to congregate. Steer clear of nonpermanent window clings, as they do not tolerate extreme weather conditions and they are easily removed. Existing sign posts can be used, when possible, to reduce costs. Obviously, signage costs and needs will vary depending on individual campus circumstances.
  • Designate one campus entity to address concerns and questions. The office or department should embrace policy communication and compliance as a part of its departmental mission. Look to those who currently have responsibilities in these areas to find the best fit. Clear communication of administrative support and expectations can assist in garnering departmental support. Dedicated staff time and resources are helpful in ensuring that a tobacco-free campus becomes a priority.
  • Establish ongoing policy communication. Call attention to the tobacco ban during orientation for new students, faculty, and staff. Determine the media that are most effective in publicizing the policy, and give special attention to materials targeting families and visitors.

Measuring Results

As proven by UND, achieving a tobacco-free environment takes time. But the results can be rewarding. Daily self-reported tobacco use on the UND campus has dropped from 10 percent in 2000 to 2.2 percent today. The university has also received the CEO Cancer Gold Standard accreditation from the CEO Roundtable on Cancer.

“We know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that tobacco-free policies provide an
environment that enables and supports individual efforts to quit. And that is a driver of health-care costs and quality of life,” says Betting. “In addition, it is generally acknowledged that higher education plays a critical role in the direction of social progress. Americans still place a great deal of trust in higher education and we must continue to live up to the responsibility that comes with that trust. Creating tobacco-free campuses is part of the responsibility.”

SUBMITTED BY Linda Daily, Falls Church, Virginia, a contributing editor for
Business Officer.

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SPOTLIGHT: Community Colleges
Virtual Campus Drives Revenue and Retention

From the outset, leaders at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), Pennsylvania, planned for our Virtual Campus to be financially self-sufficient. “Our efficiency and productivity had already been demonstrated by our evolving distance learning activities,” says Larry Adams, the campus vice president who oversees the online program.

Building on a program that served only 120 students but was already generating excess revenue, we launched the Virtual Campus on July 1, 2005. Since that time, it has become an entirely self-supporting fiscal entity. The growth rate is significant, and, as predicted, the program generates substantial revenue—$5 million to $6 million per year in recent years—that HACC's main campus has been able to transfer to its five other campuses.

Vision and Reality

We serve 21,000 degree-seeking students as well as 50,000 students in our noncredit workforce development and community education programs. The vision for the Virtual Campus is to offer an educational opportunity that students and faculty will rate as exceptional and other institutions will seek to model.

A number of factors have contributed to the program's growth and effectiveness:

  • Purposeful programming. High-quality, accessible academic programs have two purposes: (1) to provide credit and noncredit programs without geographic or scheduling constraints; and (2) to offer courses for students who opt for a combination of traditional and alternate delivery methods. All courses involve interaction with a faculty member and other students.
  • Broad buy-in. An 11-person distance learning task force began meeting in 2002 to develop recommendations for the program. Involvement of faculty, support staff, administrators, and technicians helped build internal support, while spreading the word to the community that online education would translate into more opportunities for everyone.

    That's not to say that we didn't have significant challenges in implementing the Virtual Campus model. We needed everyone to embrace the concept of a campus being something other than a physical location and to change the perception that online courses would be “stealing students” from traditional classrooms and thus threaten faculty employment. “While neither of these issues has been completely overcome,” says Adams, “neither has proved to be an insurmountable obstacle.”
  • Sufficient, highly-trained staff. The Virtual Campus employs 5 full-time administrators, 5 professional staff, and 1 full-time counselor, 21 full-time faculty who teach exclusively in the Virtual Campus, 23 adjunct faculty, and 68 other “shared” full-time, tenure-track faculty who teach at least one virtual course per semester. All must complete a 12-week Online Academy, during which they develop and present the first three chapters of their virtual courses.
  • Efficient enrollment management. We've received recognition for our work in keeping online waiting lists for full sections of popular courses so that students can be notified immediately by text message or e-mail when new sections open. This and other enrollment techniques have resulted in very high efficiency in scheduling. (For more information, go to Business Officer Plus and read "Enrollment Model Means Ongoing Monitoring.")
  • Comprehensive quality assessment. The Virtual Campus is the only part of the college with processes in place to assess every section offered online. Initially, courses are reviewed by their discipline's faculty before they are approved to go online. Twenty percent of the sections are also assessed by peer review each year.

Registering Results

Growth of our virtual education model has averaged 15-20 percent per year. The plan for 2009–10 calls for 5-10 percent growth, with collegewide enrollment growth estimated at 7 percent. We're finding that online courses are often the main attraction for students-so much so that, while we have no unique retention strategies, overall student retention is greatly aided by the distance learning program.

SUBMITTED BY George A. Franklin Jr., vice president of finance and college resources, Harrisburg Area Community College, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Student Aid Study Identifies Borrowing Patterns

The current economic crisis, combined with the increasing cost of education and lower growth rates in grant aid, has resulted in additional dependence on student loans to pay for college. However, many students may be averse to borrowing and may use other financial strategies to pursue a degree, as responses reflect in a new report by the Institute for Higher Education Policy and Excelencia in Education.

The report, Student Aversion to Borrowing: Who Borrows and Who Doesn't, uses data from the 2003–04 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to show the differences between undergraduate students who borrow and those who do not. The study shows the differences in borrowing rates by institutional sector, income quartile, attendance intensity, and college costs/financial need characteristics.

Who Is More Likely to Borrow

Students at for-profit institutions were the most inclined to borrow (73 percent), followed by those attending private nonprofit four-year institutions (56 percent), and public four-year institutions (45 percent). Those students attending public two-year institutions were the least inclined to borrow (12 percent).

At the same time, the differences between full-time and part-time students are notable. While 47 percent of full-time students received student loans in 2003–04, only 16 percent of part-time students borrowed. Part-time students at public two-year institutions seem to be the least inclined to borrow. It is possible that attending a two-year institution part time is a strategy that students who are averse to borrowing use to avoid taking on education-related debt.

Income level and student financial need are also factors students take into account when deciding to take student loans. About 25 percent of the students in the highest income quartile borrowed, compared with 40 percent of the students in the second and lowest quartiles. Students with a remaining need (total cost of attending higher education institutions minus grant aid) of $5,000 to $30,000 had the highest propensity to borrow (54 to 64 percent). Students with a remaining need that was lower than $5,000 or higher than $30,000 were less likely to apply for and receive loans (14 percent to 34 percent). In general, students with low amounts of financial need tend to be less likely to borrow, while students with higher amounts of financial need may be more likely to borrow, or they may choose to pursue other alternatives.

Alternatives to Borrowing

Students who do not take out loans are finding other ways to pay their educational expenses, often deciding to attend school on a part-time schedule. On average, among students with at least $2,000 in remaining financial need, 30 percent of nonborrowers are likely to take this approach, compared with 14 percent of borrowers. Those who forgo loans are also more likely to live with their parents; 27 percent choose to live at home during their higher education years, compared with only 16 percent of borrowers who choose this option. The study shows that Asian and Latino students are particularly likely to live with their parents.

Overall, 25 percent of students with at least $2,000 in remaining financial need received some help from their parents to pay tuition. However, African-American and Latino students were less likely than undergraduates from other racial and ethnic groups to receive this type of help. Nonborrowers enrolled at two-year institutions were more likely to work full time and less likely to receive help from their parents.

Borrowing Habits and Retention

The decision not to borrow has some consequences for a number of students. Roughly 36 percent of students who did not borrow in their first year of college left after three years without a degree (see figure), compared with 31 percent of students who did borrow in their first year. Nonborrowing African-American and Latino students were considerably more likely than borrowers from the same racial and ethnic groups to have left school without a degree by 2006. Nonborrowers at community colleges and open admission schools were more likely than borrowers to leave school without a degree. Attendance status seems to affect persistence and degree attainment as well. Seventy percent of part-time students who did not take out loans left without a degree, compared with 44 percent of part-time students who did use loans to finance their education.

RESOURCE LINK The full report is available at

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