Taking Charge — Episode 5

Marie and George were drawn to exploring the real nature of value in higher education.

“Are we investing in the things that create the most value for students and society?” Marie questioned.

“It is not just a question of where we deploy each year’s discretionary resources.  It is also an issue of where we deploy our assets and the returns generated.” George asserted.

“For example?”

“We own roughly one square mile of real estate on the banks of the Hudson River.  My guess is that the market value of this real estate is worth billions of dollars.”

“Should we sell it and move to someplace where real estate is very cheap?” Marie asks.

“No, I think we should leverage these assets.  Find ways to create greater returns.”

“If we were to relocate, where would we choose?  Some might argue that we should abandon any physical location.  Just be online.”

“That would be extreme, pretty risky.  What is Homecoming like online?”

“I don’t know.  What is Homecoming worth?”

“Let’s consider some basic factors.  We have a very attractive location.  Many sources recommend retiring in a university community.  Why can’t that place be Beresford?” George observes.

“Are you suggesting we turn the campus into a retirement village?”

“I am suggesting that we transform our community into a magnet for students, the arts, and retirees.”

“Where will we get the resources to do that?” Marie asks.

“We create a development corporation.  Our equity comes from our real estate.  Everybody else’s equity comes from cash investments.  We use the money for condominiums, a hotel, an arts center, and many campus improvements.” George proposes.

“What kinds of campus improvements?”

“Physical infrastructure, but also programmatic improvements to attract older students.”

“For what?”

“Graduate certificates and degrees in economics, history, humanities, and a special emphasis on technology and innovation.”

“Why will retirees pay our high tuition?” she asks.

“They won’t.  We will reduce tuition significantly.  Greatly increased enrollment will enable this,” he responds.

“What do you project?”

“Perhaps 3,000-5,000 undergraduates, and 1,000-2,000 graduate students, more than half of which are older adults, many retirees but not all of them.”

“The numbers work for this?”

“Strong surpluses that we can invest in increased services, for example, research projects involving both younger and older student team members.”

“This totally upsets the traditional academic paradigm,” she responds.

“And, that is what we need.  We cannot continue to hope that investing to chase the top players will succeed,” he notes.

“I like this idea.  It is really innovative.  There remains, however, a major hurdle,” she responds.

“I understand.  Many faculty members will very much dislike this vision.  They have spent many years, major portions of their careers, that they will contemplate having to abandon.”

“We will have to carefully socialize this idea.  Portray the vision, how we will get there, the view from the train along the way, and where everybody’s seat may be.”

“I agree, but you will not convince everybody,” says George.

“I know that.  I am already thinking about who I can recruit as cheerleaders, especially members of the Board of Trustees” Marie reflects.

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