Ehrenberg session feedback for strategic planning

On June 3, 2009 Dr. Ron Ehrenberg (right), the author of "Tuition Rising," visited UA for a conversation about strategic planning. The following is a synopsis of the feedback obtained from participants at the engagement session.

Question 1

Dr. Ehrenberg states that as universities plan for a future of limited resources,  they need to focus on mission differentiation. What are UA’s points of excellence and what do we aspire toward? How do we move toward mission differentiation in a time of scarce resources?

  • UA enrolled almost the same number of PELL grant recipients than all the Ivy league schools combined
  • Proportion of American students going on for Ph.D. has declined
  • We need to focus on mission differentiation – focus on what we are good at
  • 70% of the students that graduate in engineering stay in Ohio
  • Education - Percentage of NEO teachers graduated from UA
  • Applied STEM
  • Open-enrollment university — work with that as a positive, use of part-time instructor in freshman classes
  • Increase our retention and graduation rate
  • Need to have more experienced faculty in freshman-level classes
  • 72 percent of standard admits in Engineering graduate; 36 percent in the rest of the university
  • Northeast Ohio – biggest industry is health care
  • We have done some things (BioInnovation Institute)
  • Dean of Nursing pointed out that there is health care research, but opportunities are available for improving community health
    • Maybe spend more time on the other
    • That might create more basis to claim more resources because we are improving community health

Question 2

Dr. Ehrenberg discusses whether the cost of higher education be contained. What are potential new business models and efficiencies we should be exploring as we plan for our future - both academic and operational? Where are alternative revenue streams?

  • Must focus on personnel (70 to 80 percent of the budget) both administrative & academic
  • Better use of resources & increased knowledge/skill sharing
    • Cross training
    • Academic and administrative reviews
  • Consolidate programs/unit where appropriate
  • Ensure positive performance: We have the performance review process – use it!
    • Perhaps have cross-functional reviews of performance and consequence

Dr. Ehrenberg’s response: Do you use the campus during winter and summer breaks? Revenue generation – consider the notion of 3 week session. When does UA shut down after first semester? Some universities have 2-3 sessions where students can take one class. Pricing is at a lower rate than you charge for regular tuition. Generate some revenue and get more students through. You could apply the same model to summer session.

  • Review budget models
    • Review Responsibility Centered Management
    • Incentivize innovation
    • Share risks, revenue and costs
    • Need to determine and define appropriate metrics by unit
  • Need to enhance online education; use incentives
  • Look at new market segments
  • Maximize service learning
    • Could service learning opportunities be tuition-free?
  • New business models: current model is broken because the cost per degree is very high – it is a widespread problem.
  • Retention is key
  • Commitment to disadvantaged groups, access
  • Role of advising
  • Relative roles/admission criteria for four year/two year institutions
  • Role of doctoral education vs. access and retention
  • Learn from other schools who have dealt successfully with access vs. research

Question 3

Dr. Ehrenberg discusses whether higher education is prepared to respond to a different population? Adult, Hispanic, veterans, culturally diverse, etc. Is UA prepared to reach and respond to these new markets? What role will on-line education play in UA’s future?

  • Higher education is not prepared to meet the needs of the different populations listed above
  • We do not have as much sensitivity to teaching different learning styles
  • Teaching styles do not address the variety of learning styles
  • Our population works full-time; our classes offered in evening and online do not meet the demand making it difficult for these students to complete degree in timely manner
  • Assessing how we can meet needs based on individual population is important
  • Adult students
  • Educational experiences truly tied/connected to field as part of curriculum rather than alternative route: experiential learning
  • CLEP, military and experiential credit for adult students
  • Credit by exam
  • Underrepresented backgrounds
  • Concerns about resources, access to technology, need for support
  • Self-paced online programs
  • Cognitive mapping of learning styles
  • Healthy balance b/w online opportunities and classroom experiences
  • Some courses/subjects are not appropriate for online delivery
  • New transfer one stop center will be a big benefit to reaching and facilitating. However, what happens after they are enrolled?
  • Online is not just course work -- students need additional access to services
  • Need an online orientation for adult students
  • Our course offerings are not flexible.
    • Example, we offer courses on Saturday but we don’t have support services on Saturday
    • Need to target a program and the complementary services to specific populations
  • Include evenings and weekends
  • Need to include accessibility issues and this would be better met by more technology enhanced classrooms
  • Need to design more hybrid courses for flexibility to meet the student needs and the space needs – we need an associated scheduling system that is flexible to allow us to offer a bigger variety of course configurations and schedules
  • Need more computer literacy options and computer literacy should be a competency for all students especially the adult and disadvantaged students
  • University is not prepared regarding the ratio of faculty to students
    • need more case management approaches for retention
    • retention should be the role of all faculty
  • Resources are not there to support the student needs
  • Not about enough money but how you appropriate and organize it
  • How do we change the culture to design around the convenience of the students and not the providers?
  • Culture eats strategy for breakfast – we must be careful to include everyone in the process
  • If you cannot engender the feeling of innovation and exploration in a university, where do you have it?
  • Do we really have a space and parking problem, or do we need to expand our offerings and our schedule?
  • More offerings decrease time to graduation and the schedule needs to reflect the ability of students to get the degrees in the amount of time we advertise with no institutional barriers
    • we should not be creating extra barriers such as extra fees and schedule barriers
  • We need to put certificates in every program so the students have more steps of success
  • Online education removes barriers
  • We need a source where people can find more information about online programs

Dr. Ehrenberg’s response: This discussion stimulated me to think about conducting experiments. There is a need to do research. We could do pilots where more services are provided to some groups and not to others, and then document the success. Then you can ask for more money if you show the services play a role in success.


Question 4

Dr. Ehrenberg states that major research universities are facing financial challenges. Is research always a net consumer of funds? What are the costs/benefits of research prioritization?

  • ‘Purpose’ of university
    • Teach
    • Advance field of knowledge
  • RTP ‘priorities’

Question 5

Dr. Ehrenberg suggests that universities are engaged in quests for prestige. How will this quest for prestige impact tuition pricing and financial aid for need-based students? How will this impact our ability to be an access institution?

  • Does pricing have an effect on prestige?
  • Creation of Honors College has helped to quantify the value of the institution.
  • More of a push to get a two year degree at a community college to get a degree so that students are able to get a degree for a little less and then encouraging them to continue their education for a four year degree.
  • Amount of debt students will have
  • Quality education without pricing students out of the market
  • Alternative would be to get a donor base that provides more money, expands scholarship opportunities, but does not make a constraint on the institution
  • How many are actually graduating versus enrolling?
  • Perhaps UA needs to look at USO measures to see what we need to do to be able to continue to receive funding to continue to be an access institution.
  • What is our quest for prestige and what is it impacts on tuition
  • Impact on tuition and pricing
  • Will we become a select institution?
  • Prestige plus access

Ehrenberg’s closing remarks

  • You do not want to be penalized on accountability because you are doing what is in the social interest.
  • You make friends before you generate money. If are just starting up working on alumni relations, do not expect a large flow immediately. Need to get people involved and getting them to feel they have a stake before approaching them for funding.
  • Final thought: There is the dilemma of what is in the social interest in terms of higher education, and what in terms of the private prestige institution. There is a fundamental issue of whether you will allow U.S. News & World Report to dictate what you do.
  • I urge you to think of what is in the social interest as you make decisions in the direction you want to go.

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