Traditionally, higher education existed in a quantifiable world. This has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. Colleges and universities now face the challenges of unpredictable enrollment numbers that make conventional, history-based budgeting virtually impossible. In fact, the data from National Research Student Clearinghouse (NSRCC) shows that enrollment at all colleges is down 2.7 percent in fall 2021 and 2.5 percent in 2020.
The risk of lower enrollments is the waterfall effect these changed revenue projections are having on financial planning across the institution. This includes everything from personnel and staffing budgets to additional operating expenses, facility maintenance and upkeep, athletic programs and more.
To plan, budget, and forecast in this new era of enrollment volatility, CFOs and other financial professionals in higher education must be well equipped with flexible planning capabilities and tools.
Planning limitations in Excel
When planning using manual spreadsheets such as Excel, one of the biggest challenges for higher education finance professionals is trying to integrate information from other departments and groups within the institution, many of which are in different systems or formats and can be mistaken due to human error. As a result, finance teams spend extra time digging through the data, cleaning it up and then feeding it into a centralized system for analysis and reporting.