The WAICU Collaboration Project was launched by the presidents of Wisconsin’s private nonprofit colleges and universities to help them control their costs, maintain their independence, and focus their resources on teaching and learning and expanding educational opportunity. The WAICU Collaboration Project serves as a model for colleges and universities nationwide as they work to keep higher education affordable for their students. Since 2002, WAICU has organized and administered more than 40 cost-saving programs and “back office” administrative services for its members, including such complex and high-cost areas as employee benefits and technology infrastructure.
In its 1998 report, the National Commission on the Cost of Higher Education was highly critical of the way higher education operates and recommended that colleges and universities “…conduct efficiency self-reviews to identify cost-saving steps that are relevant to institutional mission and quality improvement… The commission [also] recommends greater institutional and regional cooperation.”
The WAICU Collaboration Project has been identified by the U.S. Congress as the national model for advancing this Congressional objective. The project was described by the Congressional Commission on College Costs in its report The College Cost Crisis in this way: “The WAICU Collaboration Project is a comprehensive initiative to perform all administrative support (back office) functions of Wisconsin’s private, nonprofit colleges and universities on a collaborative basis. The objectives are to save money, to improve the quality of services to students, faculty, and staff, and to serve as a national model for controlling college costs. This project moves beyond incrementalism. Never before in history have private colleges and universities considered as extensive a consolidation of functions short of an actual merger. It sends a message to the entire nation that something transformative has taken place.”
The WAICU Collaboration Project will secure the financial status of participating institutions. Working more closely together to reduce paperwork and consolidate back office functions will enhance the independence of these institutions by freeing them to concentrate on their primary mission of teaching and learning. It will free additional funds for students in financial need and for improvements in education. Finally, it will provide the country with a model that can help keep higher education affordable.
In April 2011, WAICU was recognized by the Lodestar Foundation as one of eight finalists for the “2011 Collaboration Prize.” There were 804 nominees from across the United States who were considered for this recognition by a panel of judges composed of representatives of the Atlantic Philanthropies, the Boston Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Foundation for the Carolinas, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Lodestar Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, and Venture Philanthropy Partners. The purpose of the prize is to encourage collaborative best practices and efficiencies in the nonprofit sector. WAICU was the only higher education organization to be selected as a finalist.
WAICU’s collaborative services are mission-centric, in keeping with WAICU’s mission statement: “Wisconsin’s private colleges working together to advance educational opportunity.” Every dollar saved—now totaling millions annually—goes to help students. This initiative will never be “finished.” Existing programs must be administered and subjected to continuous quality improvement. New opportunities for collaborative services—better in price and in quality than any member could achieve on its own—will always come along. For this reason, WAICU sees the recognition as a spur and as an inspiration to do even more.