Strategically Using the Summer to Strengthen Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt


Many of the traditional funding sources for higher education institutions have become less reliable. These funding sources include state funding and endowment spending. Recently tuition increases, often used to fill shortfalls, have been less effective at many schools because parents require more financial aid from schools to pay for those tuition increases. As a result, schools have been forced to come up with alternative ways to raise revenue.

Summer programming can provide institutions with a powerful way to increase needed revenue. During the summer, colleges and universities generally have underutilized resources and excess facilities capacity. By thoughtfully using resources and filling excess capacity with revenue-generating programs, such as camps, conferences, continuing education, and special events, institutions can raise needed revenue while furthering their mission. (1)

Although the financial health of colleges and universities is important for their well-being, it is not the sole metric by which most institutions measure themselves. Colleges and universities, unlike businesses, are not measured by their ability to deliver a financial return. Even though success metrics for higher-learning institutions are difficult to define, let alone quantify, it is possible to establish a framework to measure program success. Quantifying the benefits of summer programming provides institutions with a powerful ability to make decisions as to which programs will produce the greatest benefit for them.

Armed with a framework to measure the benefits of potential programs, an institution can start to define a process to identify and prioritize its potential programs. Identification, assessment, and prioritization involve both looking at the performance of programs at other institutions and understanding how those programs would perform at one's own institution, based on its characteristics and the environment. Understanding how a program would work in the context of one's own environment enables an institution to select and develop programs that are likely to be successful on its campus. By understanding the operational structure of potential programs, institutions then can set their own expectations and manage programs to meet those expectations.

It is critical to ensure that the highest priority programs are implemented and run well. First, institutions must identify the summer programs that can be feasibly operated and offer the greatest overall benefit. By carefully planning the implementation of new programs, institutions can realize their potential benefits. Successful implementation of summer programming requires benchmarking and performance management to ensure continued high performance.

Summer programming offers higher education institutions an opportunity to take advantage of their strengths and resources to generate revenue and further their missions. The factors for successful summer programming are a thoughtful plan and relentless attention to detail while executing that plan. Though planning and developing summer programs may seem daunting, institutions will be greatly rewarded for strategically expanding.


Many colleges and universities experience budget shortfalls as traditional funding sources become less reliable. Traditional ways to fill budget gaps include endowment spending and state funding. As the reliability of those sources of funds falter, colleges and universities often resort to increasing tuition. Tuition increases, however, are not always an effective means of raising revenue the limited effectiveness of tuition increases leads colleges and universities to look elsewhere to raise revenue.

The stock market crash of 2000 precipitated a drop in endowments, which frequently resulted in a related drop in endowment spending. (2) The average endowment lost 6 percent in fiscal 2002 and 3.6 percent in fiscal 2001 (Wilson, 2003). …