My NacuboWhy Join: Benefits of Membership

E-mail:   Password:   

 Remember Me? | Forgot password? | Need an online account?

Business Officer Magazine

Business Intel

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

Ball State's Geothermal Game Changer

"Ball State University's decision to implement a geothermal system to fully heat and cool its 47 buildings is another example of the kind of environmental leadership that emanates from the signing of the American College & University Presidents' Climate Commitment," says Robert Koester, professor of architecture and director of Ball State's Center for Energy Research, Education, and Service.

"Coincidentally, we signed the commitment at the same time that we had received funding from the state legislature to replace our four coal boilers," explains Jim Lowe, Ball State's director of engineering, construction, and operations. "Our initial thought was to install a circulating fluidized bed boiler and continue to burn 70 percent coal mixed with 30 percent switchgrass or other biofuels to begin our transition away from fossil fuels." When the estimated project cost for this option escalated well beyond the amount of funding available, the university decided to evaluate other options.

Fast Fact

"In the United States and South Africa, tuition increased by more than 5 percent over and above inflation."

ALEX USHER, coauthor of the 2011 Year in Review: Global Changes in Tuition Fee Policies and Student Assistance, and president of Higher Education Strategy Associates.

In consulting with the U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to determine other renewable energy means to replace the university's aging coal boilers, the idea of using geothermal technology was ultimately discussed. A geothermal expert was hired to help create a proof-of-concept that supported the paradigm shift from burning coal to using geothermal energy, notes Lowe.

How it works. Ball State's system is closed loop; it exchanges heat by circulating water in piping loops placed in vertical boreholes that reach a depth of 400 feet underground. Thermal energy is exchanged between the earth and the circulating water. Because all horizontal piping that connects the individual borehole loops is buried at a depth of five feet below ground, the water will not freeze, and therefore an antifreeze additive is not necessary. After the loop is installed in the borehole, the area around the pipe is grouted solid to the earth. The grout mixture ensures the efficient transfer of thermal energy. This procedure also prevents surface runoff water from penetrating into the groundwater.

A ground source "district" heating and cooling system-which by definition serves multiple buildings in a contiguous (campus) setting-has an additional energy efficiency capability, notes Lowe. "Like many other campuses, the Ball State campus has a large simultaneous heating and cooling need throughout the year. The heat pump chiller system provides the means to essentially recycle energy to meet these needs."

For instance, chilled water circulated throughout the campus extracts heat from various buildings. The warmer water returns to the district energy station, which houses the heat pump chillers and distribution pumps. At this location the heat pump chillers-through a refrigerant cycle-transfer the rejected heat to the hot water side of the system. The hot water is then pumped to all areas of campus where heating is required.

This process continues nonstop, explains Lowe. When more heat is being rejected from buildings than is needed for heating purposes, the heat is then sent to the borehole field, storing thermal energy in the ground for later use. When more heating is required than can be provided by the cooling side of the system, the thermal energy (heat) is extracted from the ground surrounding the many boreholes in the borehole field.

Projected cost and savings. From early estimates, university leaders projected the total system would cost approximately $73 million. With a $44.9 million appropriation from the state and another $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Ball State is working to shore up the net unfunded amount through other outside funding sources. Because the new system promises net savings of $2 million annually, university leaders have estimated an 8 percent return on investment when compared against the capital cost of the circulating fluidized bed option, says Lowe.

Ball State has already hosted visiting delegations from Tokyo and upwards of 40 U.S. higher education institutions exhibiting strong interest in the system's design. While geothermal may not be an option for everyone, Koester believes it is widely untapped and could prove to be a game changer for many in their transition away from fossil fuels.


See Ball State University's geothermal system at

SUBMITTED BY Karla Hignite, Universal City, Texas, contributing editor, Business Officer

^ Top

Conservation Competition

A nationwide electricity- and water-reduction competition, "Campus Conservation Nationals 2012," motivated nearly a quarter-million students to demonstrate their support for the environment. Organized by the U.S. Green Building Council's (USGBC) Center for Green Schools, the competition is also supported by Lucid Design Group, the Alliance to Save Energy, and the National Wildlife Federation.

Participating students represented 100 colleges and universities across the United States and collectively saved 1,739,046 kilowatt-hours of energy and 1,554,814 gallons of water during this year's three-week competition. The top five schools with the greatest average percent reduction in electricity (ranging from 16 to 36 percent across all participating buildings) are Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven; University of Kentucky, Lexington; Western Technical College, La Crosse, Wisconsin; Hofstra University, Long Island, New York; and Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.

^ Top



This year's Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Presidents, released in advance of the American Council on Education's April conference in Los Angeles, touched on everything from maintaining high-quality programs to concerns over big-time college sports.

As for the latter, the past year was certainly not a good one for intercollegiate athletics, given the highly publicized scandals at a number of schools. Survey results showed that 75 percent of all respondents indicated that colleges and universities spend far too much money on intercollegiate athletic programs.


The Association of College and Research Libraries released a comprehensive revision of the association's Standards for Libraries in Higher Education. The new standards aim to assist academic libraries in responding effectively to the growing pressure they face to demonstrate their value.

The new version, the first since 2004, reminds academic librarians that they need to pay careful attention to trends in higher education that have a direct impact on the missions of their libraries. These include increasing demands for accountability within the academy; expectation for outcomes-based assessment of learning and programs; and efforts to increase graduation rates.

^ Top

Challenges Shadow Fundraising Momentum

Key performance indicators for higher education fundraising effectiveness are beginning to show modest improvements, notes Shaun Keister, vice chancellor of development and alumni relations at the University of California-Davis, and coauthor of Blackbaud's Index of Higher Education Fundraising Performance report, released in mid-April. "Most measures were in positive territory compared to 2010 results," says Keister, "and there is evidence that the worst of the economic decline is behind us."

Fast Fact

"Nonprofit executives view aligning asset allocation decisions with organizational finance decisions as the top investment priority in 2012."

Annual SEI Global Institutional Solutions Quick Poll on top investment priorities of more than 150 executives and investment committee members overseeing U.S. nonprofit endowments

The 2011 index provides a summary of annual fund indicators at more than 100 private and public institutions. Conducted annually, the analysis is part of Target Analytics' collaborative benchmarking services for higher education. This year's results show the strongest growth among revenue measures, with the median change in revenue a positive 6.1 percent, building on positive growth in 2010 as well. Overall donor retention rates were up slightly, demonstrating a donor base that has stabilized.

However, warning signs related to several key metrics remain. Reactivating lapsed alumni donors, for example, continues to be a major challenge, despite a better economic climate. Other indicators show the following:

  • Acquiring new alumni donors continues to be difficult. In FY11 the overall change in the number of new alumni donors was down a modest 2.1 percent, but this follows a negative 1.9 percent change in FY10 and a drop of 3.5 percent in FY09.
  • Younger alumni are less inclined to support higher education, which adds to the continuing erosion in overall participation rates. Despite some hope that postrecession donor rates would bounce back, little evidence exists industrywide that this has happened. In fact, the negative 3.3 percent change in participation rates in FY11 followed a 2.9 percent drop in FY10 and a negative 6 percent change in FY09.

Figure Median Change in New Donors

The report draws this conclusion from the numbers: "The opportunity to bolster participation rates has all but disappeared in an era where younger alumni are not inclined to support higher education at the same rates as their parents and grandparents. This trend, for most programs, is likely not reversible and we'll continue to see participation rates decline."

On the positive side, retained donors increased by 6.8 percent in FY11, following a 4.9 percent positive change in FY10. This two-year positive trend-on the heels of an 11.5 percent decrease in FY09-seems to indicate that the most loyal retained donors are back to their typical behavior, giving more each year.

While much of this year's report is positive, the narrative concludes with these cautions: "It is safe to say the great recession of the past few years dramatically impacted trends in higher education, and those trends are, in general, reversing back to prerecession levels. But, when it comes to participation rates and the ability to inspire lapsed donors, the economy has much less impact, and the trends continue in negative territory despite better economic news."

To access the full report, go to


^ Top

Business Officer Plus