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Business Intel

A roundup of short news articles and useful resources for business officers

SUSTAINABILITY
Higher Education a National Leader in Energy Efficiency

The 2012 Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator survey shows the U.S. higher education sector not only making significant strides, but in many instances, leading national progress in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy. The 2012 survey—the sixth annual EEI survey of building owners and operators around the world—was led by the Johnson Controls Institute for Building Efficiency, in partnership with the International Facility Management Association and the Urban Land Institute.

Results included responses from nearly 3,500 participants across six regions. As a subset of the larger survey, the 1,139 respondents from the United States and Canada comprised nearly one third of total survey participants. Of the 993 U.S.-only respondents, 201 (20.2 percent) represented the U.S. higher education sector. What follows are some specific data points showing how the U.S. higher education sector compares to its region and globally.

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  • Interest. One key survey takeaway is the significantly increased worldwide interest in energy efficiency and renewable energy implementation as a vital business strategy. The survey, which tracks the energy priorities, practices, and investments made by executive decision makers for buildings in industrial, commercial, and institutional markets, found that 85 percent of building owners and operators depend on energy management to drive operational efficiency. That represents a 34-point increase since 2010. Among U.S. and Canadian executives, 86 percent reported that energy management was very or extremely important to their organizations, a significant uptick from the 66 percent who said this in 2011 and the 52 percent who agreed in 2010. Interest within the U.S. higher education sector is even stronger. In 2011, 73 percent of respondents stated that energy management was very or extremely important, and in 2012 the number reached 94 percent. Globally, energy cost savings and financial incentives are leading the surge toward energy efficiency implementation, but more than half of all respondents say they are also looking to improve their public image. Increasing energy security is also a key priority. 
  • FAST FACT

    The National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) reports that applications for its certified auxiliary services professional (CASP) credential increased in 2012 by 50 percent compared to the previous year. Why the big jump in interest in the four-year certification for aspiring auxiliary services professionals? "Over the last year many institutions have begun using CASP to develop their internal staff and to measure the expertise of potential staff," said certification commission chair Patricia Eldred, University of Vermont. "The growth in applications demonstrates how important the CASP designation is to the strength of our profession."

  • Investment. While 74 percent of U.S. and Canadian respondents invested in energy efficiency during the past year-more than any other region-only 25 percent had invested in renewable energy. This was the lowest percentage among all regions included in the survey, behind Australia (35 percent), Brazil (40 percent), Europe (42 percent), India (43 percent), and China (45 percent). Notably, the U.S. higher education sector outperformed its region, with 88 percent of higher education respondents saying they had invested in energy efficiency—14 percent above the U.S. and Canada as a whole—and 31 percent had invested in renewable energy.
  • Energy management practices and projects. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. higher education respondents stated that they had already implemented tracking and analysis of energy data, a number higher than the total U.S. response figure of 74 percent. Over half of U.S. higher education respondents had also implemented the following energy management practices: performed energy audit of facilities or equipment (67 percent), measured and verified energy project savings (60 percent), benchmarked facility energy performance (58 percent), and dedicated a capital budget for energy improvement projects (52 percent). With regard to specific energy management measures adopted during the past year, the accompanying chart shows the significant leadership in energy efficiency and renewable energy commitment within U.S. higher education, which outpaced the overall U.S./Canada region on implementation of key efficiency measures and outperformed all global regions on all but two of these measures.
  • Energy technologies. Globally, when asked which on-site technologies they expected to see gain the greatest market adoption in the next 10 years, executives selected lighting technologies followed by smart building technologies and advanced building materials as their top three choices. However, those top-three technologies varied somewhat significantly by region. Most notably, perhaps, were expectations among U.S. and Canadian executives—whose top three selections mirrored the overall global selections—versus expectations among Chinese respondents, who cited solar thermal and solar photovoltaic technologies as the top two technologies they anticipated would gain greatest market adoption. This seems to mirror China's current lead in investment globally in renewable energy. Worth noting is that solar photovoltaic technology ranked fourth for the U.S. and Canada and was actually third for U.S. higher education sector respondents—whose ranking of geothermal/ground source heat pumps tied for fourth place along with advanced building materials. As a region, the U.S. and Canada ranked geothermal seventh.
  • Financial and funding barriers. For U.S. respondents, cost remained the major barrier to pursuing energy efficiency. Lack of funding to pay for improvements was the major obstacle for 38 percent—jumping to 52 percent among U.S. higher education respondents. Competition for other capital investments was  a top financial barrier for 38 percent of U.S. respondents (and 48 percent of U.S. higher education respondents), followed by insufficient internal capital budget, cited by 31 percent of U.S. respondents (and 34 percent of U.S. higher education respondents).  
  • Government role. According to the survey, one third (35 percent) of respondents representing developed economies indicated tax credits, incentives, and rebates as the energy policies having the greatest impact on increasing investment in energy efficiency. This finding underscores the role of government policy in the decision making of building owners and operators. That figure jumps to 42 percent in the United States, where building owners and operators need to address aging and inefficient buildings and are looking to lawmakers to help bring down the cost of energy retrofits. In addition to incentives and rebates, the U.S. higher education sector identified low-interest financing for energy upgrades (23 percent) as the second most important driver of energy efficiency improvements.

For a comprehensive report of the 2012 Energy Efficiency Indicator survey, visit www.institutebe.com. 

SUBMITTED BY Karla Hignite, Middletown, Rhode Island, contributing editor, Business Officer

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By the Numbers

 

RESEARCH
Student Accounts and Payment Methods in Flux

NACUBO's recently released 2012 Student Financial Services Benchmarking Report accompanies the SFS Benchmarking tool, which is available to participating institutions. The report, based on a summer 2012 survey, uses data from FY08 through FY11. It continues to show considerable differences between NACUBO constituent groups in terms of unpaid loan balances, methods of payment, and other elements of student financial services.

Mixed Data for Student Accounts

Although the percentage of students with unpaid balances has increased from 25.8 percent to 30.6 percent, outstanding accounts receivable as a percentage of the total amount invoiced remained low in FY11, at 4.3 percent—the highest proportion since the inception of the survey. This number is being driven by community colleges, where the ratio of unpaid balances to total invoiced is 9.4 percent. Despite the numbers, NACUBO is encouraged to see the group's ratio decreasing from the highest reported level (10.1 percent) in FY10.

  • More collections activity. At the same time, after two years of decline, the percentage of student accounts placed in collections increased to 5.3 percent, close to the highest levels, reached in FY08. This change also seems to be driven by community colleges, as the average percentage of community college student accounts placed in collections rose from 5.8 percent to 9.2 percent from FY10 to FY11. Although this percentage was slightly lower than that reported in FY08, a 2.4 percentage point rise at community colleges offset the declining percentage at comprehensive/doctoral schools (down from 5.6 to 4.5 percent) and research institutions (from 6.7 to 5.2 percent).
  • Increased loan write-offs. When it appears that funds are unrecoverable, schools often write off these receivables from their books. One somewhat disconcerting finding is the increase in schools writing off institutional loans. The dollar amount of these written-off loans as a percentage of total institutional loan receivables has doubled since FY08. However, this percentage remains low at 3.4 percent.

Small institutions reported the highest figures, despite their history of reporting relatively low ratios. Community colleges reported a decrease in this ratio from FY10 to FY11 (from 3.7 to 2.6 percent). These variations between NACUBO constituent groups can reflect a number of differing factors such as the ability to offer institutional loans or the amount of student need compared to tuition levels.

A Plethora of Payment Channels and Methods

At participating institutions, a general movement from manual to Internet payment processing has taken place across all NACUBO constituent groups. However, marked differences in payment processes are reflected by the groups.

Manual payments still account for the greatest dollar volume at small institutions and community colleges, amounting to 55.4 percent and 52 percent of payment dollars, respectively. Conversely, research universities receive 52.4 percent of payment dollars through Internet channels and only 28.8 percent through manual processing.

A similar story emerges when looking at the dollar volume of student payments by method (see figure). From 2008 to 2011, payments by paper check have fallen by more than 20 percent, while Web and e-check payments have more than doubled. Similar offsetting changes between in-person and Web-based credit card payments further demonstrate the move toward electronic payments in an effort to streamline student financial services offices. 

However, differences between constituent groups do still exist; 49.4 percent of FY11 payment dollars received by small institutions came from a paper check, while 40.9 percent of payment dollars received by research universities came from e-checks. Community colleges were significantly more reliant on credit card payments, both for in-person and Web-based transactions, than the other constituent groups. This may reflect the lower tuition rates and other costs that make community college credit card charges more manageable.

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RESOURCE LINK Go to the Research tab at www.nacubo.org for additional information regarding the 2012 Student Financial Services Benchmarking Report. This year's report is available to members at no charge and to nonmembers for $30. The accompanying benchmarking tool is available only for participating institutions. NACUBO will launch the 2013 SFS Survey in early spring.

NACUBO CONTACT James D. Ward, research analyst, 202.861.2530

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QUICK CLICKS

Some Good News on the Tuition Front

www.naicu.edu/news_room/detail/private-college-costs-up-again-but-at-slower-rate

According to a survey by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU), published tuition and fees at the nation's private, nonprofit colleges and universities rose only 3.9 percent for academic year 2012–13, the lowest rate in four decades. At the same time, institutional student aid budgets at private colleges increased by an average of 6.2 percent. Of NAICU's 960 member institutions, 445 responded to this year's survey.

Since the economic downturn, reports NAICU, private colleges have introduced creative affordability measures to keep students' and families' education costs as low as possible. A large number of private institutions have cut or frozen tuition, announced fixed-tuition guarantees, or introduced three-year degree programs.

Location, Location

www.aier.org/cdi

The American Institute for Economic Research has established a destination index for colleges and universities. The criteria include such significant qualities as academic environment, quality of life, and professional opportunities. The AIER College Destinations Index, released in October, includes the top 75 towns and cities in the United States for college students, based on a larger evaluation of the 227 metropolitan statistical areas with student populations of 15,000 or more.

Here are the No. 1 rankings of destinations in each of four population sizes:

  • Boston-Major metro (population greater than 2.5 million).
  • San Jose, California-Midsize metro (1.0 to 2.5 million).
  • Ann Arbor, Michigan-Small metro (250,000 to 1 million).
  • Ithaca, New York-College towns (less than 250,000).

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