Pivoting resources to respond to change, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, is essential for today’s higher education institutions. Not only must your institution shift funding quickly, but it must also continue to plan and allocate resources for the future.
Below, we share a few considerations as your institution reevaluates resources to meet the needs to students and faculty during this challenging time.
Treat your strategic plan as a living document and give it the flexibility to change
To accomplish this, consider converting paper-based processes and records to an online planning platform. The benefits here are manifold, including bringing together remote teams for collaboration and document approvals, encouraging transparency, and creating urgency.
When responding to short-term moves in plans and funds, an online approach fosters flexibility and nimbleness unlike static paper-based methods. And, by housing your plans under a single umbrella, your team is quickly able to assess and reassign priorities. Perhaps your institution had planned to expand its on-campus facilities due to growth but must now modify resources to quickly expand its online education footprint or to make up for the shortfall in housing fees as students are moved off-campus.
Higher education workforces relocating to home-based offices, in response to social distancing calls and Stay-At-Home Orders, have found online planning tools to be indispensable during these extraordinary times. Thanks to increased visibility into priorities and goals, you’ll have better insight into how to reallocate funds and request necessary resources to make the transition as painless as possible.
Yesterday’s approved budget may not reflect tomorrow’s needs
The purpose of a living, breathing strategic plan is to change as the institution’s needs change. In a situation such as a pandemic that demands rapid response and constant pivots, you can expect priorities to change as the situation develops. This also underscores the need for a budgeting process that responds quickly to your institution’s changing needs. An online budgeting tool that integrates with your strategic plan provides your institution with a high-level view of priorities and funding, and in a crisis, you can swiftly and transparently reallocate funds to new places of need.
For example, your school may have budgeted to hire new staff, but, due to short-falls from cancelled sporting events, must instead focus on securing adequate funds to pay current staff. This wouldn’t have been built into your previous budget, but there is a clear need today. Is there an opportunity to divert funds from lower priority objectives, such as unused student wages, rainy day funds, reduced HVAC costs, or non-essential equipment purchases?
You may also be taking a hard look at long-term priorities. Diverting funds away from recruiting and orientation may pay for new resources, but in the long-term could hurt your institution’s enrollment, affecting funding on a larger scale in the future. Consider also how your institution can replace expected and now altered streams of revenue, such as housing fees and meal plans that need to be refunded to dorm and cafeteria closures. How does your institution replace these revenue streams or forecast new revenue after the crisis is over?
Rather than slashing budgets across the board to make up for shortfalls or reallocating funds to serve immediate needs, you can strategically identify where funds affect your institution’s functionality, track their spend, and document approvals and allocations. As your institution moves forward, this helps paint a clearer financial picture of revenue sources and budget expenditures.
Embrace the new normal with a clear view of the future
Higher education institutions across the world reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic now must also plan for a post-pandemic future. Although the world will change in ways we are just now realizing, there is an opportunity to redefine what normal looks like for your institution. Proactive planning and budgeting efforts will help your institution, along with your staff and students, pivot with the least impact on key business processes, get organized, and confidently embrace the future.
What will business as usual look like for higher education? We’d love to hear how your institution is pivoting towards the future.