The upside to the rising cost of higher education? An opportunity for greater innovation in auxiliary services!

We have all heard the stale (but seemingly true) jokes about higher education in our modern century. “We used to be state-funded, then we became state-supported. Now, we are simply state located, and some contend that we are being state harassed.” We’ve also heard the complaints from students and parents about going into debt to pay the ever-growing tuition and fees at both private and public institutions.


We have all heard the stale (but seemingly true) jokes about higher education in our modern century. “We used to be state-funded, then we became state-supported. Now, we are simply state located, and some contend that we are being state harassed.” We’ve also heard the complaints from students and parents about going into debt to pay the ever-growing tuition and fees at both private and public institutions. “I graduated with a 4.0 and well over $40,000 in debt.”

And we’re not the only ones who have heard these complaints. State legislators are getting phone calls everyday from these same parents and students. At a record rate, many states are pushing back on the idea of raising tuition and fees. Financial support for higher education is approaching an all-time low, so how can there be any good news in this? Where’s the silver lining?

As traditional sources of income for colleges and universities are dwindling or becoming a political third rail in higher education, campus administrators are being forced to diversify their streams of revenue. Therefore, we have recently seen the big push for new ways to develop philanthropic revenue. But the deep pockets of philanthropy can only go so far. Some campuses are also seeing an increase in new ideas about revenue generating programs via innovation and commercialization of scientific research. Again, this is great for the top-tier research schools, but what about the rest of us?

Luckily, what administrators are now starting to realize is that maybe there isn’t a need to invent an entirely new wheel. For most of our campuses, auxiliary services have already been integrated into the very fabric of campus life for awhile.

This is our moment! The renewed focus on revenue generated from auxiliary services creates a pivotal time for us to showcase our skills and expertise garnered after decades of real-world experience in crafting the ideas and executing the plans to bring in more money for the campus.

Auxiliary services personnel are creators. We are innovators. We provide a unique service that more and more school administrators are realizing will be invaluable in this new century of higher education.

As colleges and universities seek a new standard for funding higher education, they are refining their understanding of how auxiliary services can be best utilized. The modern university administrator is turning to professionals who have experience running businesses. They are looking to experts in creating revenue, but most importantly, they are looking for people who understand how intrinsically distinct higher education is from standard business models. Now, more than ever, our ability to run businesses, partner with businesses, and generate new sources of money to offset the total cost of education is key to the financial sustainability for our students and our campuses.

As such, I highly encourage a deeper conversation about this new normal through our webinars, the NACAS Lounge, and don’t forget our Annual Conference coming up in Indianapolis October 9-12.

We have a lot of work to do. I look forward to connecting with you soon!
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Kelsey Finn
Kelsey Finn is the NACAS CEO.

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