Posted March 6, 2013 by Elizabeth Beltramini 

More Than Just Monetary Value

Last month Canada discontinued the penny, citing the 1.6-cent cost to produce each one. I was aware that the U.S. penny was even more expensive to mint (closer to 2 cents per coin), but a January TIME magazine article on the topic reported that an even greater drain is the U.S. nickel, which costs 10 cents to produce. Clearly these coins’ value must be more than just monetary, a fact I find ironic.

Yet, it is likely the same on college campuses. We evaluate programs, services, and facilities on more than their bottom line alone. We consider factors such as attendance, learning outcomes, the stakeholders involved, tenure of the program or service, goodwill generated, expertise or equipment required, etc. However, I wonder how often we put all those criteria in writing and really examine each program and service using this complete lens.

In the age of accountability, we are all being pushed to do more of this, but there is always a reason to keep those “nickels” around. Perhaps we should pause during the development of a project—before it is even created—and determine what circumstances would portend an initiative’s retirement. Otherwise, we become invested in a project and have greater difficulty agreeing on when its value has already peaked.

This issue of The Bulletin includes the annual “What’s New” showcase, featuring everything from art exhibits to vending machines. We hope seeing these campuses’ innovations will inspire you to improve your own initiatives and create new ones. However, we also encourage you to specify how you will measure the success of these new endeavors, and on what grounds and during what timeframe you would discontinue them.

It is always challenging to identify resources to support new projects. If we did a better job outlining a common definition of what success means for each initiative, we could more easily prioritize resources and make a case for sunsetting some projects. Because without this approach, if you had a nickel for every new idea introduced, you could be in debt.

Elizabeth Beltramini

Elizabeth Beltramini is the Director of Content Curation at ACUI.

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