It’s Winter Olympics time and we in the U.S. cheered as Evan Lysacek won the gold medal in men’s figure skating. The reigning gold medalist challenged him in this event, a Russian skater that burst onto the ice with a dynamic performance that included several complicated jumps. In the end, it was Lysacek, with a clean, consistent skate, who earned the most points. Juliet Macur explains that Lysacek used a new scoring system to his advantage, while his major competitor did not. The new figure skating scoring rewards bonus points for any jumps landed in the second half of the program. Lysacek landed five of his eight jumps in the second half of his program, while the Russian skater landed the bulk of his jumps in the first half of his program. This gave Lysacek an edge in points and ultimately the gold medal.
Institutions of higher education are facing critical financial situations and are changing the scoring as well. The University of Nevada Reno absorbed $33 million in budget cuts in the past year and is facing more. The Louisiana Community College System has lost $24 million in funding in the last two years. A $100 million budget gap is being faced at Dartmouth University. Very few colleges or universities have been unscathed in our recent recession. Institutions are revising budgets, raising tuition, eliminating staff, faculty, and programs. A new scoring system is at hand.
What is the new scoring reality in student affairs?
Think about your school’s strategic plan. When was the last time you read it? Does your program or unit align with the goals and desired outcomes of the plan? Find it, read it, know it. Your program mission statement should reflect the goals of your college or university. Use citations in your annual reporting to demonstrate how the work that you do meets these goals.
Think about how you measure success. How do you determine productivity? Do you collect student evaluations? Do your students achieve higher grades, improved retention, or higher graduation rates? Is your institution getting a return on investment from your salary, benefits, and program dollars? Programs that survive the next round of budget cuts are the ones able to show clear data supporting their value to the institution.
Think about why you are where you are. What service or leadership do you provide? Is it being provided elsewhere on your campus? Is someone else doing similar work better, stronger, faster? With whom do you collaborate? Be certain that you know your allies for support and funding. Build your community. Be certain that you are not the only one who can provide positive public relations for your programs.
There is a new scoring system throughout student affairs and higher education. Make certain that just like a new generation of Olympic athletes, you are using the scoring to your advantage.