Summer Planning Tips for Higher Ed Professionals

Author: Mollie Nolan

In Brief:

  • Graduation season marks the beginning of summer break, a great time for higher education professionals to plan for the upcoming academic year.

  • Ask these four questions when evaluating if your current technology is effective.

  • Use this time to grow with these online and in-person professional development opportunities.

Blog Post

It’s graduation season—you know what that means! As students complete final exams and move out of their dorms, the familiar buzz of activity on campus will begin to fade. This shift marks the beginning of summer break—a valuable time when higher education professionals can reflect, recharge, and prepare for the upcoming academic year. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of this time.

Plan for Next Year

Start the summer productively by reflecting on the previous year. Identify what worked well and areas for improvement. Gather feedback from faculty, staff, and students. Then, start planning and setting clear goals for the next academic year. Think about these important factors:

1) Adjust your budget.

Use your summer to set your institution up for financial success. Review your current budget allocations to determine where you can cut costs or reallocate funds.

If your budget is tighter than last year, look for technology that can help you reduce costs or add new revenue streams. For example, when students fall behind on payments, getting them back on track is time-consuming and expensive. With Nelnet Campus Commerce Past Due Payment Plans, it isn’t. Improve retention rates and reduce outstanding receivables by giving students flexible payment options.

2) Consider the impact of staffing changes.

For higher education institutions, the end of an academic year often brings staffing changes. As you evaluate your current staffing situation, identify gaps or areas where additional support may be needed. Brainstorm how existing or new resources could help you fill these gaps.

If your budget doesn’t support hiring new staff, utilize technology to supplement some of the work and prevent burnout for your team. Nelnet offers tools like Payment Plans, Storefront, and Sponsor Billing and Payments that can help you automate time-consuming financial management tasks.

3) Assess your recruitment and retention strategy.

Your institution is only as successful as your students. Summer is a great time to reevaluate your strategies for recruitment and retention. We’ve already discussed how offering payment plans on past due balances can help keep students enrolled, improving your retention rate. Technology can also be a game-changing marketing tactic for your admissions office.

Today’s students are used to an easy online shopping experience. And that expectation extends to payments made on campus. Using technology that makes it easy for students to pay their tuition, purchase things from the campus bookstore, and pay for housing will set your institution apart.

Evaluate Your Tech

Seeking out new tech solutions is an important part of planning for a new academic year. Summer break is also the perfect opportunity to evaluate whether the solutions you already use meet the needs of your staff and students. Ask yourself:

1) Are our solutions user-friendly and efficient?

Ensure your technology is easy for students and staff to use. Complicated tech can waste time and cause problems, especially if you have a small staff.

2) Are they flexible to meet our changing needs?

Your needs change year after year and you need tech that grows with you without requiring significant overhauls or additional fees.

3) Do the solutions you use integrate?

If every department on campus uses a separate vendor, that creates problems for your business office. When your tech solutions integrate, things like reporting and ensuring payment security are much easier.

4) Do our vendors provide quality customer support?

Your institution will succeed when your vendors are responsive to issues and take the time to understand your unique needs.

Seek Out Professional Development

Professional development is crucial for staying current with higher education trends and progressing in your career. Here are a few opportunities to consider:

1) Explore workshops or self-paced training courses.

Summer is a great time to expand your knowledge and skills through workshops and self-paced training courses. There are a variety of free and inexpensive professional development resources available online. Check out these opportunities offered through LinkedIn Learning and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

2) Find a Mentor

Another great way to grow professionally is to find a mentor. This could be someone in a leadership position at your institution, a boss from a previous job, or a person you met at a networking event. Unless your institution offers a formal mentorship program, you’ll have to find a mentor on your own. This process is informal and can be difficult to navigate. Check out these tips from NPR about how to find a good mentor and make it work.

3) Attend CampusConnect or OnCampus

If you’re a customer of Nelnet Campus Commerce, attending one of our upcoming events is a great way to build your network while growing professionally.

OnCampus is a series of in-person, regional events where higher education professionals can build connections, discuss solutions and challenges unique to their region, and share ideas to create efficiencies and increase profitability across campus. Explore upcoming dates and locations.

CampusConnect is a free online conference where higher education professionals learn about the latest industry trends, hear the most recent Nelnet product updates, and connect with peers from across the country. The 2024 conference is scheduled for October 15-17. Mark your calendar

Take Time to Recharge

Summer break is a great time for higher education administrators to plan and grow professionally, but it’s also an important time to rest. Setting aside time for self-care, travel, and connecting with friends and family is essential. When you start the next academic year feeling rested and recharged, you’ll be ready to provide the best support possible for your students.

Author: Mollie Nolan

View all posts by Mollie Nolan