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Business Officer Magazine

Redesigning Higher Education

Our nation needs far more educated citizens than are now produced," said Jamie P. Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, who spoke to the NACUBO prime representatives at a breakfast meeting on Monday. "All of our work is about trying to meet that demand goal. At Lumina, our message has shifted from the what to the how—how do we get there?"

Merisotis sees two key imperatives for meeting "this urgent national need." The first, he said, is to mobilize all relevant stakeholders to join in the effort. He praised NACUBO for the advocacy work it is doing to make higher education attainment a priority.

Second: Design a 21st-century higher education system that will offer lower-cost academic delivery and will be "a learning-based system offering pathways to high-quality credentials." The traditional credit-hour model won't serve the dramatically larger number of Americans who need higher education, Merisotis asserted. "Learning outcomes must be the true measure of educational quality."

He urged chief business officers to free capital investments in noncore assets in order to support new forms of academic delivery that could serve greater numbers of students. "It's not enough to convince your colleagues of the need for innovation," he said. "You must be driving the innovation."

Merisotis offered four practical steps:

  • Apply institutional resources in a thoughtful, purposeful way. Align tuition and financial aid policies to encourage students to take full courseloads and graduate on time.
  • Leverage your success and share that information with policy makers. "You are well-suited because you have a foot in two worlds: one in academia and one in the policy world," he said. "Be a public advocate for system redesign."
  • Translate the details on which the new system is based. "Your expertise is absolutely critical. You must be able to articulate the financial underpinnings of the new methods of assigning value to courses."
  • Embrace collaborative leadership in your campus. "With students so diverse and the consequences of failure so dire, the academic and business sides must work together," said Merisotis. "No business office has the luxury of focusing solely on the numbers; your job is ultimately about people."

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