Most colleges and universities are finding themselves more tuition driven than ever. Many institutions, especially small private colleges, are heavily enrollment dependent. In a time when resources are running thin and students’ needs are more crucial and demanding than ever, institutions are more reliant on delivering services efficiently and effectively to attract and retain students.
As the final stop in students’ experiences, the student accounts office must be firing on all cylinders to serve students and meet a myriad of other demands, including institutional and regulatory compliance. An accurate and defensible plan to advance your student accounts office begins with data – lots of data. Leaders and decision-makers need information about staffing resources, technology needs and a detailed account of compliance-related risks.
The best way to collect all this information is with an Office Assessment. If you’ve never conducted an Assessment – or it’s been more than three years since you have – here are three reasons you need to complete a Student Accounts Office Assessment as part of your Strategic Plan.
Reason 1: Creating a detailed understanding and baseline about how your student accounts operations is functioning
Would you set long-term retirement savings goals without looking at your current financial situation? No. You’d review your savings and retirement accounts. You’d consider your assets. You’d likely reach out to a financial advisor.
Think about your student accounts office the same way you think about retirement planning. You shouldn’t make any major forward-thinking plans, or even current assumptions, about the office without having a sense of its strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your starting point will help you determine how to realistically capture some easily attainable short-term wins and achieve your long-term goals.
Reason 2: Measuring the functional condition of your student accounts office, documenting future needs and gaining efficiencies
Assessment outcomes will help you make the smartest investments for your institution and direct resources where they will have the greatest impact. Objective Assessment data enables you to fortify areas that are performing well and improve those operational aspects that may be deficient or just need some shoring up. Accounting for both ensure that overall operations meet your standards, serves your students and sets you up for success while also creating efficiencies and potential cost savings.
Reason 3: Taking the guesswork out of staffing and succession planning
Conversations about future staffing often can be emotional and even political. Data collected through an Assessment removes the emotion from planning. It provides the objective baseline needed for your decision making, empowering the student accounts office to thrive in coming years regardless of retirements or other staff departures.
Those are three formidable reasons to conduct a Student Accounts Assessment. But deciding to act is just the first step. Next, you decide how to gather and synthesize all this information in a meaningful way.
How to Conduct a Business Office Assessment
Many assume that an Assessment can be conducted by campus staff. After all, no one knows your shop better than those closest to it. Let us offer a word of caution – your staff already has a lot of responsibilities to manage. Adding something of this size and scope to their to-do list easily could lead to burnout and result in an Assessment project that is started, but never finished.
More importantly, the best way to collect unbiased information is to work with a partner who has a proven track record of analyzing and documenting client’s needs and establishing priorities—like FAS Student Business Services.
Our team of consultants has a wealth of experience and specific areas of expertise that they use to evaluate your operations from the front-facing student engagement to back-office processing and everywhere else in between. With a variety of formats and options you can choose the right one for your campus.
No matter which option you choose, by the end of the assessment, you’ll have a comprehensive and objective view of your student accounts office and the information you need to build an informed multi-year strategic plan. FAS can help there, too. We’ll not only make customized recommendations, but we’ll also help you leverage that information into an actionable plan. You can be confident that your operational goals roll up into and support your institution’s strategic plan.