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Developing Model to Assess Costs of External Partnerships


Western Connecticut State University, like most universities, has numerous stakeholders and groups who view and frame their relationships with the University as a partnership on the basis of the perception of shared expectations, common goals, and geographic or other forms of fit. Some of these affiliations are formal, as denoted by signed agreements, while other affiliations are more informal and survive on the strength of past practice or unspoken agreements. Both our formal and informal affiliations raise a number of questions, which are outlined below.

  • What is a partnership ?
  • What resources are used to create/ further a partnership ?
  • What broad goals are accomplished as result of a partnership ?
  • How does the University systematically evaluate the costs and/or benefits of a partnership ?
  • What organizational units have authority to create partnerships ?
  • What guidelines exist or should exist in forming partnerships ?

The Community Partnership action team was formed in August, 2005 to address these questions and to recommend an appropriate structure/ framework for evaluating partnerships. Members of the Action Team are :

  • Vijay Nair, Co-Chair
  • Allen Morton, Co-Chair
  • Maribeth Amyot
  • Anthony Ciarlegio
  • Koryoe Anim-Wright
  • Fred Tesch

What is a Partnership?

“Community Partnership” for our purposes may be defined as activity that involves expenditure of significant university resources with a partner external to the university.

The criterion used to decide whether to engage in such activity should be the potential value the university receives from the partnership.  The value received may be in the following areas:  monetary gain, student enrollment, fund raising, educational experience, career placements, and/or political capital.  Since the issue is value received for university resources expended, no distinction is here made between a single event and a continuing partnership.

What Resources are used to create/further a partnership?

In estimating university resources that are to be committed to a partnership activity, the following resources should be taken into account:

  1. Money
  2. Staff time (released time from regular responsibilities; maintenance; security)
  3. Physical facilities
  4. Inconvenience factor (e.g. additional parking required, scheduling problems, crowding in food service areas, etc.), even though no monetary value can be assigned.
  5. Opportunity Cost, or the value of a foregone alternative, or the value obtained from the best possible use of a resource.

The Community Partnership Team collected partnership data from the following entities between May 2005 and October 2005;  The Ancell School of Business, The Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences, The School of Professional Studies, The Division of Graduate Studies and External Programs, The Division of Student Affairs, The Library, Events Planning, and Information Services.  All in all, the partnership data represents 72 partnerships or alliances, with the following characteristics.

  • Total hours used = 5,642.5
  • Total costs = $459,842.3 including opportunity costs of $155,947.75.  For example, the University could have charged $90,447.75 for the use of residence halls for summer athletic programs that it chose not to.

What Broad Goals are Accomplished as Result of a Partnership?

Given the fact that partnerships consume scarce University resources, partnership efforts should further broad, strategic goals for the University that are consistent with the University’s values and mission.  Accordingly, we analyzed and arrayed the partnership data according to the four pillars of mastery, opportunity, creativity, and diversity since these pillars represent the strategic focus of the University’s efforts subsequent to the Values and Vision Process.  The cost summary related to each of the four pillars is represented below.

Hours                                         %                     Expenditures                 %

Mastery            1437.00            25.5               $102,838.5                   33.9
Opportunity      2937.50            52.1                 139,917.0                   46.0
Creativity            464.25              8.2                     1,000.0                       .3
Diversity             804.00            14.2                   60,139.0                   19.8
                        5642.75           100.0               $303,894.5                  100.0

Mastery represents many things, including our commitment to building and nurturing a vibrant academic community and the enhancement and sharing of our intellectual skills and professional expertise with our partners.  Among the mastery related partnerships in this report are the following:

  • The magnet school
  • Teaching pathways
  • The Boehringer Management Development Program
  • The Center for Collaboration
  • The Appellate Court appearance on campus
  • The Center for Financial Forensics and Information Security

Opportunity related partnerships emphasize access and the development of innovative partnerships that benefit all participants in the partnership.  Partnerships under this heading include the following:

  • Bridge Project
  • The Center for Business Research
  • Greater Waterbury Nursing Consortium
  • Leadership Waterbury
  • Nursing Pathways Partnership
  • Science Horizons
  • Roots and Shoots

Partnerships in the area of creativity refer to alliances in the arts, as well as to interdisciplinary programs and new pedagogies that engage and enlarge the focus of student learning.  Examples of creativity related partnerships are the following:

  • Weir Farm
  • Teaching Origami
  • The Center for Financial Forensics and Information Security
  • New path video/film

Diversity based partnerships broaden and widen the cultural, social, and philosophical perspectives of our academic community.  This report includes several partnerships in this area.

  • Western Connection
  • The Hua Xia Chinese School
  • Educational Roundtable
  • Student Center sponsored events
  • Housing Conference

How Does the University Systematically Evaluate the Costs and/or Benefits of a Partnership?

The definition of partnership contained in this report identifies several types of value received from partnerships; monetary gain, student enrollment, fund raising, educational experience, career placements, and/or political capital.  These concepts of value received are also consistent with notions of value used by our professional colleagues.  For example, a query of local academic deans resulted in the following quotes.  A complete summary of the partnership experiences of our professional colleagues is contained in the appendix, under the title “Partnership Experience of Academic Colleagues”.

  • Value is equal to grant dollars secured and increases in enrollment resulting from partnership expenditures.
  • Non-financial benefits include doors opened by virtue of the partnership
  • The benefits tie back to our strategic mission and goals of the School.  How does the partnership impact these goals?  This includes the financial impact, but the financial impact is not the primary driver.

For purposes of exposition and discussion, this version of our report will focus on the immediate returns generated by the sample partnerships.
The table below shows returns generated from the investment of time and money in the partnerships summarized above for the four pillars.

Hours                                        %            Expenditures           %            Return on Investment

Mastery            1437.00           25.5           $102,838.5         33.9              $176,000
Opportunity      2937.50           52.1             139,917.0         46.0                386,580
Creativity            464.25             8.2                 1,000.0             .3                150,000
Diversity             804.00           14.2               60,139.0         19.8                  38,950
                         5642.75        100.0             $303,894.5      100.0              $751,530

The returns of $751,530 seem impressive when compared against the expenditures of $303,894.5.  However, much, if not all of the returns are generated by several large items, such as grants and fees for the use of University space.  These grants and fees, which total $731,750, are highlighted below.

  • DH Nursing Agreement $150,000
  • JGI marketing plan development fee $10,000
  • Center for Business Research grant $183,000
  • JGI Grant $200,000
  • MS Nurse Educator Program $150,000
  • Hua Xia Chinese School $8,750
  • Western Connection $30,000

The funds returned to the University total $19,780 without the inclusion of grants and fees mentioned above.  Likewise, the cost of partnerships excluding the costs of the grants mentioned above is $198,394.5.  On a nominal basis, the University’s investment in partnerships has earned a rate of return of approximately 10%.  However, this return doesn’t measure intangible or future returns.  For example, the Executive Forum consumes approximately 70 hours and $9,800, yet the benefits of “capacity building” in the non-profit sector are not easily quantified.  Similarly, the Center for Financial Forensics and Information Security was funded by an initial investment of $5,000 and must cover its cost of operations over a five year period, per its approval by the Board of Trustees.

Finally, one significant cost that must be considered in this report is the idea of opportunity cost, or the cost of a foregone alternative.  While this cost is an imputed cost, its value is important to consider when the University is considering the use of its scarce physical resources.  One prominent example in this area is the Danbury Westerners Baseball Team and the Team’s use of resident hall space during the summer.  In a recent summer, the University “donated” the use of space worth approximately, $90,000.  Alternative uses of this and similar space represent a potential financial opportunity, especially as it relates to the recommendations of the summer and intercession assessment action team.

What Organizational Levels have the Authority to Create Partnerships?

Our initial recommendation is based on the following organizational definitions of “significant” University Resources.

  • At the department or “base unit” level:  more than $500
  • At the school level:  more than $1000
  • At the university level:  more than $2000

The above levels are subject to review and discussion and will be examined prior to the final report.

What Guidelines Exist or Should Exist in Evaluating Partnerships?

There should be a systematic way decisions are made to engage in community partnerships, regardless of who makes the decisions.  A proposal should be submitted to the appropriate person (department chair; head of the base unit; dean; vice president; president) that will contain estimates of university resources required and the potential value the university would receive.

At the end of each fiscal year there should be an assessment of partnership activities at the appropriate level (department/base unit, school, vice president, president), which should be included in the appropriate annual reports.  While it is acknowledged that any single activity may lose money, community partnership activities as a whole for the fiscal year at each of these levels should at least break even unless there is an adequate budget identified for that purpose.

Proposal for Community Partnership

  1. Date:
  2. Name and position of person to whom proposal is made (must be WCSU employee):
  3. Name(s) and affiliation(s) of person(s) making the proposal:
  4. Contact information:
  5. Description (including duration) of the proposed partnership:
  6. Frequency and duration of events:
  7.   WCSU resources required
    • Staff (including maintenance and security):
    • Time (hours, days, weeks) of each staff member:
    • Physical facilities (rooms/buildings/outdoor facilities):
    • Equipment/supplies:
    • Transportation/travel:
    • Parking (number of vehicles without WCSU parking permits):
    • Food service:
    • Other:
  8. Resources you will contribute:
  9. Number of people participating:
    1. WCSU employees:                          Who:
    2. WCSU students:
    3. Others:
  10. Please explain how this partnership will benefit you or your organization:
  11. Please explain how this partnership will benefit WCSU in terms of one or more of the following:
    • Monetary gain
    • Student enrollment
    • Fund raising
    • Educational experience
    • Career placements
    •   Political capital


Partnership Experience of Academic Colleagues

How does your school determine the cost of partnerships

  • In my college I look to what my goals are for partnering and analyze cost in real dollars and in manpower versus what we gain from partnering
  • This curious partnership issue has grown for us and makes for lively discussions.  We are finding that the true costs are difficult to determine especially if the partnerships comes with “employees” that become the college’s.  Our largest partnership is with the city where we provide the space and employ them in exchange for a “grant”.  Of course this is not “cost neutral” but was sold as important for our Business Division.
  • Cost is determined by the individuals/offices working with the prospective partners.  In all cases that I know of, a partnership is established only if it does not cost the College outright.  We often honor partnerships with gifts in kind, however, in particular free space rental for events.  Also, in some instances, a partnership is judged valuable enough to operate even if it does cost the College some financial burden.
  • Largely by identifying the amount of faculty and staff time involved in the activity as well as any direct costs
  • There isn’t any one process that is followed, but done on a case by case basis.  We evaluate each partnerships based on costs, revenues, (if any) and the strategic importance to the School
  • We look at the direct costs and do a cost/benefit analysis taking into account intangibles such as goodwill and future opportunities
  • The cost of partnership is difficult for me to measure in any quantitative way.  Clearly, there are costs in terms of time committed to developing and maintaining partnerships and potentially higher costs of the expectations if the partnerships are not managed carefully.  However, I believe that the benefits for partnerships far outweigh any costs.  While some costs are intangible, such as access to outside organizations, visibility, etc, other benefits are more tangible, notably financial contributions and time with students, etc.  We track these contribution carefully in a development database

How does your school measure the benefit, both financial and non-financial of these partnerships?

  • In the financial area we measure benefits on the basis of what our real dollar expenditure are versus increases in enrollment or grant funds secured.  In the non-financial we look at doors that may be opened by virtue of the relationship
  • The benefits tie back to our strategic mission and goals of the School.  How does this partnership impact these goals?  This includes the financial impact, but the financial impact is not the primary driver.  The full costs are then included within our budgets and decisions made regarding our ability to sustain a healthy partnership that adds value to us and to the partner.
  • Basically on a case by case basis and we look 3-5 years out.
  • As we have yet to move to a “fee for services rendered” model because we’re concerned about the liability/exposure associated with offering recommendations in a formal consultative relationship, the benefits are largely in the form of internships and permanent placement opportunities, as well as student satisfaction with the experience.  The partnerships are relatively short-lived incorporation of a “problem” from a company into coursework in a Problem Based Learning model.  Of note, the university has an explicit process for establishing “affiliations” should we seek a more in depth quid pro quo model.  This policy applies to affiliations with not for profit organizations.

Who or what group/office provides oversight for your partnerships in your school?  Is this group housed in a school or schools, or is this a school wide or university office?

  • We do this through our Dean’s Office Liaison Coordinating Committee, which is housed in my school
  • No contract or agreement for partnership can be signed without the VP of Finance studying the plan and understanding its implications.  Generally, someone at the executive level must carry the proposal for discussion along with the budget proposal for the senior administrative team and we discuss the benefits and how closely it fits our mission.  (Mission, Strategic Plan, Budget).  We also review partnership renewals, especially when we need to review the trending of true costs.
  • It varies.  Some partnerships require contracts that have to be handled through the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Affairs and then get forwarded to the System Office.  Others are arrangements we handle either through Continuing Education which gives the college flexibility to negotiate its own contract or through our grants office on campus.
  • Once the parameters are known---either financial outlay, gifts in kind, or “exchange value” --- the campus partner clears the proposal with the administration, typically through the VPAA (for all academic units), who then takes it through the President’s Council.  If any of these partnerships involve grants, we have a separate approval paper trail for these, through our director for grants/funding and requiring signatures of our VPIA and CFO for major amounts.
  • There isn’t any special group.  It is managed by various people depending on the type of partnership.  For example, if it is focused on our MBA program, those responsible for the MBA program take the lead.  We do have a person, who reports to the dean, that coordinates activities for all the partnerships.
  • Our University Director of Corporate Relations coordinates
  • It is up to the faculty member who is the point person to assure that the project works well.  I as Dean ask to be apprised of these efforts.  Where the founder/owner/manager in the company is a development prospect, we also seek counsel from and apprise our development officer of these initiatives.
  • The management of partnerships varies.  At my previous school, I had an Assistant Dean for Constituent Relations in the business school who was charged with managing these relationships.  Currently, we work from a central development since our university is primarily a business school.

If the estimated expenses are less than these amounts, no formal procedure should be required.  Also, on the question of who makes the decision, “if it comes out of your budget, you make the decision.”

A suggested proposal form is attached.  It will be made available in electronic format.

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