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Colleges and Universities Must Embrace Change and Focus on Collaboration, According to New Plante Moran Outlook

​Southfield, Michigan, March 7, 2013 – To survive and grow, colleges and universities need to develop a focused strategy and a sustainable financial base, according to a new report from Plante Moran.

Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, has released an industry outlook report that advises education leaders to focus on:

  • Collaborating with other universities and being open to change
  • Protecting against risk
  • Being more creative with technology
  • Analyzing cost versus benefits of all programs and degrees offered
  • Strengthening their academic core and using big data to understand students
  • Investigating other potential sources of revenue, like real estate.


“Last year, state funding for higher education took the steepest year-over-year drop in 50 years,” said Vicki VanDenBerg, leader of Plante Moran’s higher education industry group. “This shows us things are not going to return to the way they were.  Colleges and universities must track a new course that allows them to be more collaborative and creative in their approach to doing business.”

VanDenBerg noted that building on each other’s success will be what moves higher education forward. One of the best examples of this is the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Framework, a project of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technology, which studies the records of more than 1 million students in an effort to predict, then remove, potential barriers to students’ graduation.

The Plante Moran outlook features an interview with Beth Davis, director of the PAR Framework, where she discusses why analyzing student data like financial aid and course size, completion and success, can provide institutions with information to support students on the way to graduation.

By re-examining their academic core and reducing costs in operations, universities and colleges can move into a more sustainable future. Some cost-cutting options the report notes are:

  • Prioritize academic programs, ensuring that programs either support the institution’s mission or are self-sustaining.
  • Using cloud-based solutions where appropriate. Migrating to the cloud can mean more flexibility and more cost-effective solutions.
  • Studying and applying other successful models in business, such as converting real estate assets to cash by selling buildings and leasing them back.


The report also provides perspective from Tom Dretler of Sterling Partners, which focuses on joint ventures and Mary Kramer, corporate vice president of Crain Communications and incoming board of control member at Grand Valley State University. Dretler provides insight on the changing real estate needs of colleges and universities as online classes continue to grow and Kramer discusses her commitment to affordable higher education and meeting the needs of nontraditional students.

“While the dramatic changes we’re experiencing in higher education can be a little scary, our team prefers to look at this as a time of unprecedented opportunity to collaborate,” VanDenBerg said. To read the full report, visit  http://www.plantemoran.com/perspectives/outlooks/Documents/2013-higher-education-outlook.pdf  

About Plante Moran

Plante Moran is among the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, providing clients with tax, audit, risk management, financial, technology, business consulting and wealth management services.  Plante Moran has a staff of more than 2,000 professionals in 21 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, with international offices in Shanghai, China; Monterrey, Mexico; and Mumbai, India.  Plante Moran has been recognized by a number of organizations, including FORTUNE magazine, as one of the country’s best places to work. For more information, visit plantemoran.com.

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