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Business Officer Magazine

Business Intel

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

Teaming Up on a Total Cost Model

Faced with aging physical assets and decreasing financial resources, some higher education institutions are considering a total cost of ownership (TCO) model. The approach factors in all related expenses for a given facility: construction, maintenance, and replacement costs.

For TCO to be effective, however, chief business officers, facilities directors, and others on campuses must think differently about their roles in strategic master facilities planning.


For further details on the total cost of ownership model, read "The Total Package" in Business Officer Plus at

"If you grab onto the TCO concept, you can see that it's an enterprisewide undertaking," says E. Lander Medlin, executive vice president of APPA. "Everyone has to be involved. If you don't think enterprisewide, you've already missed the boat. TCO is designed to give institutions a better view of their total capital plan in terms of vision, mission, and academic programing," she continues. "It should drive space allocations, money investments, and facilities planning."

On many campuses, staff working in different departments may not realize that they gather and maintain data that may be useful to others in managing the total costs of their institutions' physical assets.

Fast Fact

Reporting a 45 percent increase in first-time freshman enrollment in 2013 over 2012, Langston University, Langston, Oklahoma, has enrolled one of the largest classes in the 116-year history of the historically black college and university (HBCU). President Kent J. Smith Jr. attributed the achievement to the hard work of the enrollment management team, the university's revamped scholarship process, and the focus on recruiting college-ready students. "This collaborative approach reenergized the campus," said Smith, "helping produce this remarkable increase in enrollment, reversing a stagnant trend from prior years."

This had been the case at the University of Texas, Austin. "It's a change in understanding that the data that they have is useful to others in a different way," says Ana Thiemer, manager, renovation and replacement program, facilities services. "That's a big piece. I don't think people were intentionally withholding information.

"For example, project delivery may say we've been living and breathing this project for six to eight months," she continues, "but there needs to be a transfer of everything that went into that project to maintenance and operations [M&O] and vice versa. M&O may be going out to maintain a system every day, and it's important that they communicate any problems back to project delivery so that we don't do it that way again."

"Traditionally, the role of facilities was to keep the buildings running," notes Randy Ledbetter, president, R. Ledbetter and Associates. "The biggest advantage of TCO is breaking down silos so that the business office is working with facilities and construction/design to manage physical assets more effectively. Of course, there has to be leadership buy-in for it to work," he notes. "Identify some champions to help you get people to the table. Implementing TCO may mean expanding roles of existing staff. Someone has to own it, but once you get started, people are generally excited about the concept."

From the perspective of Douglas Christensen, Christensen Facilities Group LLC, getting the right people in the room to begin implementation of TCO is "a leadership issue for the institution. This is not a facilities management or business office problem. It's an institutional issue. If the institution isn't committed, TCO is very difficult to implement," he says. "It needs to be implemented from the top down. CBOs have to partner with their presidents and trustees to get TCO done."

In Christensen's experience, once the trustees and president understand that TCO is really an investment program, it becomes critical because it's a discussion about investments rather than a presentation about daily maintenance costs.

"At many higher education institutions, very little information goes to the trustees about existing facilities," Christensen says. "They often don't know what problems or advantages they have with the existing campus, and they should. They need to be part of the investment team."

APRYL MOTLEY, Columbia, Maryland, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.

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By The Numbers: Student Financial Aid Trends, 2008 to 2012

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A 360-Degree View to Improve Health and Safety

With 500 principal investigators and approximately 4,500 laboratory researchers, the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, experiences numerous challenges for the university's department of environment, health, and safety (EHS). Responsible for lab safety, the department is constantly developing internal processes with the goal of not only improving the safety of laboratory researchers, but also the health and well-being of building occupants and first responders.

Recently taking the safety process to another dimension, UNC EHS is one of the first such departments in the nation to institute a program called Safe View 360. The innovative approach is designed to dramatically improve the safety of emergency first responders in the event of a lab accident or fire. Its comprehensive scope captured the attention of NACUBO, and the program was honored with one of the association's 2013 Innovation Awards.

Full-Circle Photography File

The Safe View 360 approach calls for photographing laboratory interiors, from floor to ceiling, with a camera and software purchased from an outside vendor. Realtors have been using 360-degree imaging for years, giving potential buyers the ability to "walk through" all the rooms in any number of houses they might want to preview. Similarly, school districts have begun to apply the viewing system to emergency response applications such as school shootings.

Credit: Aaron Schmidt

The Safe View 360 calls for photographing laboratory interiors from floor to ceiling so that fire and other responders can view the entire room prior to entry.

UNC recognized the life-saving value of this approach. Using the images now provides a complete view of the laboratory interiors such that fire and other responders can view the entire room prior to entry.

They can see, for example, where a flammable cabinet, toxic gas cylinder, or other potentially dangerous items are located. Being able to see what might be behind a door or corner helps responders to navigate through smoke or other obstructions. If chemical and biological hazards are involved, preventative measures can be taken. This increased visibility provides some psychological support for entering a fire- or smoke-filled room-an unnerving experience even for the best-trained responders.

Building on Earlier Ideas

While the UNC EHS department always provided laboratory tours so that emergency responders could become familiar with locations, this method was often impractical because of restricted access or because of researchers working at all hours in the labs. The sheer number of labs, located in dozens of separate buildings, also made it difficult for workers to recall the various layouts and specific hazards of any particular space. The Safe View 360 data builds on the floor plan information to provide navigable interior views as though the responders were already there.

Images are housed in the UNC EHS emergency operations center to aid in emergency management and planning, with the ability to easily pan completely around a room. The system is used in conjunction with other tools:

  • Floor plans effectively communicate spatial relationships of rooms and corridors, and show methods of entrance and egress.
  • Various oblique and orthogonal aerial images relay data about physical location of the building and its proximity to other areas of interest, such as hospitals and roadways.

Applying a geographic information system, UNC EHS can manage maps and the associated imagery that indicates infrastructure information for floor plans and creates a spatial context for the images. After creating a layer with relevant information about the location of each 360-degree scene, points are added to the map linking to the area in which the scenes are securely stored. Once opened, clicking highlighted doorways and corridors allows for realistic navigation through each location.

What's Next?

While continuing to collect laboratory images, UNC EHS is also interested in pursuing other applications for this technology. For example, they may be able to collaborate with public safety officials for security concerns, such as the presence of an active shooter, or take images from mechanical rooms and rooftops for even more-thorough maintenance and facility services planning. Benefits unrelated to safety might include self-directed virtual tours of classrooms, dormitories, and research spaces for prospective students and researchers.

In the meantime, Safe View 360 underscores the UNC EHS motto: "Together, making UNC a safe and healthy place to teach, learn, and serve."

SUBMITTED BY Mary Beth Koza, director, environment, health, and safety, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

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Science Master's Degrees a Professional Plus

A Council of Graduate Schools' survey reported in mid-October that recent graduates of professional science master's (PSM) degree programs indicate strong rates of employment and relatively high income levels. The third annual PSM Student Outcomes Survey tracks initial hiring trends and perceived satisfaction among study respondents. Created in 1997 with Alfred P. Sloan Foundation support, PSM programs are offered at 137 higher education institutions and combine rigorous study in science and/or mathematics with coursework in management, policy, law, and related fields. Most programs require a final project and a business or public sector internship.

According to the survey, 78 percent of respondents who graduated during the 2012–13 academic year were employed at the time the survey was conducted. Two thirds (68 percent) of PSM graduates who were working full-time reported earning more than $50,000 per year; 72 percent indicated that they were very satisfied or generally satisfied with their post-graduation employment prospects.

Student Loan Default Rates Rise Again

According to the U.S. Department of Education's end-of-September report on cohort default rates (CDRs), the two-year rate increased to 10 percent from 9.1 percent in FY10; the three-year rate stands at 14.7 percent, up from 13.4 percent in FY09. The FY11 two-year national CDR is a snapshot of the cohort of borrowers whose first loan repayments came due between Oct. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010—and who defaulted by Sept. 30, 2012. In total numbers, nearly a half-million student borrowers are defaulting on their loans within two years of repayment; 600,000 are doing so within three years.

To address the issue, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) recently convened three separate task forces—the HEA Reauthorization Task Force, the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery Discussion Group, and a Loan Indebtedness Task Force—to examine student indebtedness and to recommend ways to increase college affordability and reduce student and family debt.

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