What Admission Directors Need to Bring to the Financial Table

What Admission Directors Need to Bring to the Financial Table

By Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE, president and CEO of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA)

I’ve worked with business officers for many years in both higher education and independent schools, and the one thing that has consistently set “good” business officers apart from “great” ones is their ability to explain financial issues in non-financial terms to non-financial people. Regardless of a school’s size or student population, the business officer who can explain its finances in a way the many different stakeholders can understand and appreciate is the mark of an outstanding professional. Even better, those talents reflect an outstanding partner to the leaders who also have influence over the school’s revenue and expenses—the head of school, trustees and leaders in admission, advancement, academics, and so on.

Likewise, a great admission director can be a valuable partner to the business officer, especially during discussions about financial aid and even tuition setting. How? By taking all the qualitative data you collect in your work in the admission office and organizing it in a way that makes it meaningful and actionable to the head of school, trustees, and business officer with whom you work. Here are four advantages an admission director can bring to the table during discussions about financial aid and tuition:

  1. Remember that you possess competitive intelligence that is critical to your school’s future success. Collect and codify it to answer these two all-important questions: Why do your families choose your school? Why do other families choose a school down the street? Frame the information in a way that is accessible, compelling, and actionable for your colleagues. Break it down into a table, chart, or graph. Make your data “tell a story.”
  2. Be the “keeper” of demographic data for your school’s market. Trustees are focused on the future, and your ability to describe and forecast the next generation of students will make you an invaluable partner to them. NBOA offers demographic research services called DemographicsNow which could help you illuminate the future for your colleagues. NBOA membership is an institutional offering, granting access to these data (and NBOA publications) for admission teams and anyone employed at your school.
  3. Keep the current year admission statistics (number of applications, visits, wait lists, etc.) top of mind so that others have no doubt that you are the expert and your finger is on the pulse of the school!
  4. Know your school’s net tuition number. If you want to be a good partner to the business officer, head of school, and trustee, demonstrate that you will manage financial aid to make sure that your school’s net tuition number is in alignment with your school’s long-range financial plan.

The admission officer and the business officer have a great deal in common in their ability to support the school’s decisions and advance its financial sustainability. Translate your expertise into language your business officer understands and appreciates, and you’ll be invaluable partners.