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Business Officer Magazine

Responding to Today's Trends

Student service and financial aid issues covered in these sessions included new strategies for controlling textbook costs, increasing student retention, and using residence halls to improve student satisfaction.

Pricing Myths Debunked

Campus presidents and CFOs often try to set the “right” tuition discount rate for their institutions. Often, institutional leaders either seek to keep the tuition and fee “sticker” price low or increase institutional grants by a high level. But, according to David Strauss of Baltimore-based Art and Science Group LLC in the session “Pricing Myths Debunked: Why Tuition Discount Rates Don't Matter,” such strategies are often misguided. Instead, Strauss believes, colleges and universities should “take strong, substantive actions to improve their market position, in addition to setting tuition prices that will lead to long-term growth in net revenue.”

Hendrix College, Conway, Arkansas, has taken this long-term approach. Rob Young and Karen Foust, vice presidents at Hendrix, created the Odyssey Program in fall 2005. Under this program, tuition and institutional grant policies were based on attracting and retaining a different mix of in-state and out-of-state students. “We focused on our academic strengths and found differences in in-state and out-of-state student price points,” Foust said. Hendrix actually raised its tuition and fee sticker price by 29 percent in 2005 and has continued to raise tuition through 2009. Hendrix also increased Odyssey grants to students and research grants to faculty.

As a result, during a six-year period Hendrix dramatically increased total enrollment and net tuition revenue and increased the school's name recognition among prospective in-state and out-of-state students. Other institutions can follow a similar strategy, “but a school's program has to be authentic to its situation. It has to be based on its market dynamics,” Strauss said.

Busy As Ever in the Bursar's Office

Recent changes in federal student aid, health care, and other provisions have kept bursars busier than ever. Dennis DeSantis of the University of Pittsburgh and David Glezerman of Temple University reviewed how these developing issues will affect the bursar's office now and in the future in the session “Pressing Issues for Today's Bursar's Office.”

Changes to student financial aid will keep bursars particularly busy. The net price calculator provision, which requires all institutions to post their average educational charges and student financial aid awards on their Web sites, will be especially challenging. Bursars will also help their campuses implement changes to delivery of federal student loans, as well as the new GI Bill educational benefits. In addition, many campus leaders have asked bursars to help develop student financial literacy programs. “It is falling more and more to bursars to help students learn about how to finance their education,” Glezerman said.

Bursars must also look for changes to health-care benefits under the new federal law and examine prospective changes to bankruptcy and privacy laws. Other issues include new mandatory requirements for direct deposits of student refunds, the trend toward paperless billing, and evolving electronic communications.

DeSantis suggested that bursars become more involved with negotiated rulemaking to keep up with these rapid developments. “Bursars should sit at the same table as financial aid administrators and enrollment officers. That is the best way to have your voices heard,” he said.

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