Everybody is talking about the rising cost of college tuition and the resulting student loan debt that America’s college students are accumulating.  Parents and students are wringing their hands and complaining loudly, while many politicians are placing blame and passing the buck.

As head of College Parents of America, I think it makes more sense to  discuss solutions.  One of the ways that businesses gain productivity, and save money, is by outsourcing certain functions – an approach that colleges and universities, in searching for ways to keep their own expenses down, should consider too.

I am not talking about sending thousands of university jobs to India. I am suggesting that some non-academic functions on campus could be much better, and more efficiently, accomplished by a contractor.  Parents are fed up with cost increases and insist that campuses operate more efficiently.  In order to hold down costs without sacrificing academic quality, why not outsource non-academic functions?

What are some of these functions?  Information technology (IT) is at the top of the list.  Trained IT professionals, battle-scarred from decades of creating connectivity solutions for businesses, seem uniquely well positioned to help forge similar solutions for college and universities.  After all, it is on those same campuses that many of these professionals were trained.

But IT functions are far from the only non-teaching areas that a school might consider for outsourcing.  For instance, certain back-office functions of financial aid, such as loan certification or disbursements, can be effectively outsourced and create win-win situations, where schools can save money and still serve students and their families more effectively.

Human resources is yet another school function that may be able to be managed more effectively when outsourced.  Items such as payroll services, workplace training and staffing solutions are transparent to the college or university customer, but critical to keeping the school running smoothly.

College Parents of America applauds any effort to reduce institutional costs, but we will cheer even more when we learn that cost savings in the nonteaching arena are passed on to those of us who are customers of colleges and universities, students and their parents.

We believe that every dollar saved by schools should result in one or more of three things: more human investment “in the classroom” through the recruitment and training of the best professors; more capital investment in the “learning environment” through the building of clean, safe, technically sound structures where the ability for teachers and students to interact is enhanced; and less – or ideally no — need to raise tuition and other fees.

We’ll continue making cost-containment suggestions in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.  And we’ll do this in a spirit of school-parent collaboration because, at College Parents of America, we realize that our young people are being served by the greatest system of higher education in the world and our goal is simple: to make our system even better, while keeping it affordable for families.

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