With times being what they are, colleges across the UK have spent the last year or two leaving no stone unturned in their attempts to address the funding gap. It might, therefore, come as something of a surprise to find that many could potentially still be bringing in an extra £500,000 in income.
Attracting more students to courses is no doubt the most obvious way to attract more funding but many colleges assume this means adding new courses. However this need not be the case.
Adding one student per class costs you virtually nothing, but can bring in an average of £5000 per student. With 100 classes, that’s an extra £500,000.
The maths seem quite simple – although the modelling you need to calculate how much funding you would get from adding more students to course Y as opposed to course X are more than a little complex. This is the major reason why many colleges have not been able to explore all the possible options available to them to tap into extra sources of income, and this is where technology can help you be more effective on the business side of things.
The right environment to learn
The overall aim of any college has to be to allow lecturers and academic support staff to focus on creating an environment that inspires students to succeed. This above all will ensure good enrolment, retention and successful outcomes.
But as well as being educators first and foremost, you also need to be managing directors of medium-sized businesses – pouring over profit and loss accounts, releasing products or courses that the market wants to consume, contracting out services where this makes sense and recruiting the right employees for the right number of hours.
More informed decisions
With a little blue sky thinking and a little help from technology you can get some answers to these dilemmas.
Let’s start with the courses that you are offering – your products.
Products affect income. So having the right products is essential and knowing what products to offer in 12, 24 or 36 months’ time will ensure funding stability.
Determining what courses to offer, how many and when requires information. Searching disparate sources of information can take hours, days or months and even then, can you be sure you have access to up to date data?
Using your management information system (MIS) which contains historical information around course popularity, staffing costs, available venues, spare capacity and all the funding formulas, means that decisions can be made based on accurate forecasting regarding what funding you can to receive – ensuring risks are minimised and sound business sense can prevail.
Accessing all the information you need in a few clicks allows you to determine the knock-on effect in terms of income and cost of increasing your apprenticeship offerings or introducing more academic courses. This ensures you get a real understanding of financial viability and cost effectiveness of new and existing courses.
Every financial avenue available to you can be modelled to see which ones are worthwhile exploring. For example, what would the funding increase be if you increased class sizes by one or two places for your popular beauty courses? How would this balance against the cost of new equipment that would be required?
If one member of staff does not have any lessons on Tuesday afternoons, what would the financial implications be if you used this lecturing resource to run a course in the art room that is never occupied at that time?
Could Mr Callow, your Computer Science A-level teacher, run a short Excel course in July?
The possibilities are endless, and with technology you are able to model the consequences of your actions before you act on them. Decision making is improved and financial viability is assured.
Effective use of your MIS will have benefits far beyond reducing your paper trail, helping you address the challenges you face head on. By using it to improve decision making, it will allow you to adopt a fresh approach to how you run your college in ways you had previously never envisaged.
This article is based on a number of money saving ideas which appear in Capita’s white paper ‘The Vice Principal’s Guide to Efficiency: How technology can help cut costs for FE colleges’. Download a copy from www.capita-fhe.co.uk/whitepaper
Rob Elliot is Product Manager for Capita’s further and higher education business. Follow Rob on @capitafhe