Case Studies

Case Study: Audit and Improve Career Services Organization

Client institution was regionally accredited and had been placed on accreditation “probation” for failing to meet employment outcomes in its prior reporting period.  System included eight campuses and over 20 programs, nearly half of which had non-compliant employment outcomes.

Resolution: Conducted a full Career Services program, process, and data review.  The recommendations resulted in a one-year project focused on process and procedure and included:

  • Rewriting all career services documentation, tracking reports, and auditing processes
  • Conducting a full-day Career Services Boot Camp for all career services staff across all eight campuses
  • Coaching Career Services leadership teams for six months to improve day-to-day management focus and ongoing placement outcomes.

Results: When contracted, every campus in the system had one or more programs that did not comply with regulations for a total of 13 non-compliant programs.  In the first year after implementing the new career services protocol, only three programs remained in the struggling or non-compliant list and the overall average employment rate across all eight campuses rose from under 58% to over 70%.

Case Study: Lead-to-Start Improvement

A multi-campus for-profit college system identified that they were experiencing deteriorating lead-to-start results which were eroding their profitability by driving up cost to start.  While evaluating the opportunity, it was also noted that first-term continuation rates were also declining.

Resolution:  A thorough audit of all student-facing activities from the moment a lead was received through to the census date of the second term was undertaken.  The result of the audit identified four key areas of focus for improvement:

  • Simplify the application and financial aid process
  • Clearly articulate the student support team for assisting students through the application process
  • Transform the orientation program for new students and their support network
  • Identify students that may not succeed / persist much earlier in their first term

The team implemented a series of programs that ranged from new communication tools to entirely new tracking systems.  These tools and processes were designed by agile program teams that each took a specific area, and rapidly iterated to a new method, then were responsible for system-wide training and rollout of the new process.

Result:  Over a six month period, the new initiative drove lead-to-start up 1200 bps and contributed to an increase in first-term continuation (the number of students active on census in term one that are still active on census in term two), from under 80% to over 88%.

Case Study: Course Scheduling Efficiency

A multi-campus career college had, for decades, been operated in a decentralized academic model, allowing individual campuses to structure course schedules, build course content and manage student schedules as long as the campuses operated within stated guidelines.  This college had experienced many consecutive years of enrollment growth, but due to economic downturn and regulatory and market conditions, was faced with decreasing enrollments and the need to trim costs and improve scheduling efficiencies.

Resolution:  Designed and implemented a centralized curriculum model and scheduling system.  Development of this model included a multi-phased approach to analyzing program offerings, current course content, and the implications of prerequisite and co-requisite course “wheel” models.  The review and subsequent redesign focused on improving student experience, minimizing duplicate courses and maximizing online offerings in coordination with on-campus offerings.

Once designed and developed, the team built and executed training and multi-campus implementation process for the rollout of the new scheduling and curriculum to ensure that all critical staff across the campus understood the new model and the positive implications for the students as well as for the school.

Results:  23% decrease in number of courses which resulted in increased seat counts, more efficient scheduling and reduced curriculum administrative costs.

Case Study: Faculty Development and Staff Training

Student engagement and retention is directly linked to classroom experience.  Alta Colleges and its three divisions determined that improving enterprise-wide culture and student experience, with a focus on classroom experience and academic quality, would drive meaningful improvement in student retention and improved revenues.

Resolution:  Designed and implemented program to build faculty development program aimed at campus employees including full-time and adjunct faculty.  Program included classroom tactics for improved student engagement as well as major cultural shift towards improved customer service throughout the campus and a renewed focus on student experience as it related to student success.  The program was called Practical Tools for Transformative Teaching, and was coupled with the cultural change initiative titled, “The Westwood Difference”.

Results:  Program reached over 95% of all staff and faculty in the entire enterprise.  Evaluations reflected 96% approval of speaker and 95% of all attendees rated the day as “valuable” and “exceeding expectations”.  Observed classroom behaviors were measured across 32 specific criteria prior to program rollout. Desired behaviors increased in occurrence during observations by 14%, and student evaluations of faculty also improved significantly.  Finally, the third-party independent evaluation conducted by Noel Levitz reflected improvement in all categories when measured prior to the program implementation compared to the index taken after program implementation.

Case Study: Early-Tenure Student Retention

Career College saw that its greatest opportunity to improve the student experience, and hence, improve student retention, was to focus on the on-boarding and first-term student experience.

Resolution: Designed and implemented new student orientation, “Day One Success Class”; revised Admissions presentations and enrollment completion processes; changed staffing programs for first-term courses; and conducted system-wide training program to ensure consistent and complete implementation of all new policies and programs.

Results: Improved first-term retention across 19-campus career college system by 800bp; improved start rates from 50% to 59% across the system within nine months.

Case Study: Design, Build and Implement New Online School

Hired by large publishing company to assist with a strategic partnership they created with internationally recognized Australian institution.  The partnership involved creating an entirely new on-line university to replace an existing online presence.

Resolution:  Evaluated the client company and university resources and capabilities, partnered with the implementation team to design implementation processes and worked in partnership with both the client and the university to hire and train admissions team, implement CRM and all enrollment processes, design and train all student services processes and teams, build database warehouse to track all processes from lead generation through to student retention and graduation rates.

Results: The new school has exceeded all enrollment and retention targets for every term they have been operating. They have launched new programs and intend to further grow the relationship.  Publisher has secured one new partner which was implemented using the same processes. New Partner more than doubled their initial enrollment targets on their first intake period.

Case Study: Elimination of Decentralized Procurement Process

Campuses were not adhering to system policies regarding the use of campus-level petty cash checking account, using these accounts to purchase fixed assets and enter into local vendor agreements.  In some cases, blank checks were signed by the authorized signor but given to other employees to make the purchases.  This led to 1) incorrect recording of asset purchases, 2) lost signed checks and 3) purchase abuses of what were not considered legitimate campus expenditures.  These behaviors were violating internal controls and resulting in misleading and erroneous financial statement presentation.

Resolution:  As Divisional CFO, I partnered with the Controller and Accounts Payable Manager to close down all campus checking accounts.  We immediately relinquished all petty cash/check writing privileges and investigated alternative solutions to periodic campus cash needs.  We aligned with our banking partners and a released a limited number of purchase cards to each campus, and simultaneously created an on-line Purchase Order request and approval system.

Results: Violations of non-compliance were reduced to 0%.  Central control and approvals were reestablished and the organization was able to capture over $60K in usage rebates from our credit card vendor.  In addition, we were able to consolidate requests for supplies, equipment and furniture and buy in higher quantities, thereby receiving discounts between 5-15%.  And finally, financial activities and results were reported correctly to stakeholders.

Case Study: Heightened Cash Monitoring (HCM) Process Improvement

Client was placed on HCM2 while the Department of Education (“ED”) awaited the college’s response to a recent Program Review.  Client was unfamiliar with this process and therefore had many errors in their periodic submissions to ED.  This caused significant delays in the timing of funding as well as reductions in the amounts received.

Resolution:  Evaluated the required process and established clear and unique elements that could be separated and assigned to specific owners ensuring timely completion of each requirement and more accurate submissions as the new owners grew essential expertise.

Worked with both the internal Financial Aid staff and the client’s third-party processor to minimize delays, holding all parties accountable to specific monthly timelines and accuracy metrics.

Results:  Within in 2 monthly cycles, we increased funding requests from less than $300,000 per submission to over $800,000.  Reduced first-pass error rate from over 45% to as low as 10%.  Reduced funding cycle by 25 days (48%).  Client was able to manage and forecast cash flows with better accuracy and eliminate monthly investor calls for cash.

Case Study:   Registration Policies Improve Revenue Results

Divisional CFO and regional Finance Team of a multi-campus system noted inconsistencies in between revenue forecasts and actuals.  It was discovered that campuses had inconsistent registration and census policies throughout the system.  No system policy was in place to address how to account for continuing student who did not return to school during Add/Drop but did return by Census date.  This led to erroneous revenue modeling and inaccurate revenue forecasting.

Resolution:  Partnering with the System Registrar, we investigated the current processes at each campus, noting where there were differences and why.  We then established a cross-functional team which included registrars, campus presidents, business office and financial aid representatives, as well as IT.  We developed a system-wide “Registration Completion” policy and established procedures and system modifications to assist in making correct student status determinations.

Results:  By instilling consistent practices and training all campuses to understand why the policies were established, we were able to eliminate inconsistent recording of tuition and refunds, saving the company over $5-10M in annual lost revenue and ensuring better accuracy in both attendance and financial aid administration.