The academic portfolio and efficiency/productivity framework and analysis from rpk GROUP seeks to address five key questions:

  • Student demand and yield — Who is interested in these programs, and do they come?
  • Instructional activity — Where do most of the students “land” in terms of programs and courses? 
  • Retention, excess credits and degree production — How successful are we with these students?
  • Revenue and expenses — What’s the net revenue produced by each program? 
  • Efficiencies and productivity — How might we utilize faculty and array courses/sections to lower cost and maintain quality?

Case study: University of Missouri — Kansas City

UMKC has engaged its academic leadership deeply in a more data-informed approach to program design and delivery, yielding improved student performance and cost savings for reinvestment.

In 2016, rpk GROUP (rpk) and the University of Missouri — Kansas City (UMKC) embarked upon a journey to surface critical academic, administrative, and resource data that would ultimately lead to the development of a data-driven culture and participatory budgeting process at UMKC. Over the course of 18 months, rpk and UMKC collectively completed four major analyses: an academic portfolio review, an efficiency and productivity analysis, a net revenue analysis, and an academic services review — all executed with knowledge transfer as a key priority so UMKC could independently replicate the analyses as needed in future years.

Institutional Impact

While the project surfaced a significant number of opportunities that helped UMKC realize financial savings, the key differences between 2016 and today at UMKC are cultural. Specifically, UMKC is making exciting progress at becoming a more data-driven institution around academic offerings, and is in the midst of executing a shared budgeting process that involves academic leadership in new and innovative ways. 

Data-Driven Decision-MakingUMKC leadership credits the engagement with rpk for propelling the institution forward to be truly data-driven, particularly with academic planning and management. Prior to the spring of 2016, mandatory program reviews relied on anecdotal information and qualitative processes. Program demand or yield was rarely discussed and data was fragmented. Academic planning was done without attention to fill rates or number of sections, resulting in unsustainably small class sizes and under-utilized faculty. One concrete example of this was the MBA program — prior to this project, the business school offered three different MBA programs, all of which had similar curriculum and courses, just taught by different faculty. After realizing this redundancy, the business school immediately made changes to streamline their offerings and faculty, resulting in $1.5M in savings. 

As of 2020, fill rates have increased, the number of sections has decreased, and faculty to teacher ratios are on par with UMKC’s peer institutions, all while enrollment and completion rates ticked up.  In other words, UMKC realized strong productivity and efficiency gains after just two years of adopting a more data-driven approach to academic planning.

Resources

Report — rpk GROUP Academic Portfolio and Efficiency/Productivity Reviews: Project Samples
ArticleWant to Change the Academic Lineup? First Analyze Offerings as a Whole

rpk GROUP is the only firm I’ve found with expertise in higher education finance that works as a true partner. By customizing their approach to UMKC’s needs, and focusing on knowledge transfer, they empowered our faculty, chairs and deans to make data-informed decisions.”

Barbara Bichelmeyer, Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, University of Kansas (former Provost at UMKC)