What to Know About Expense Management in Higher Education

Higher education systems are at a unique crossroads right now. They manage massive budgets and in the past few years the cost of attending a university, public or private, has risen exponentially. At the same time, as a result of the increased attention on topics like student loan debt, a lot of universities including state systems, are looking for ways to be more budget-conscious and reduce some of their spending. Part of it is likely because of perceived public effect, and some of it is in a genuine effort to deal with issues like smaller endowments.

One of the ways many university systems and schools are working on reducing their spending is through staff expense management software and solutions.

The following are some of the key things to know about expense management in higher education right now.


At many universities, there are so many layers of complexity and bureaucracy that are part of the entire administrative system, and this leads to inefficiencies and increases the potential for fraud or waste in staff spending.

For example, Bain & Company issued a report on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, saying that multiple layers of management lead to unneeded complexity and inefficiency, and this certainly wasn’t the only school to experience this.

With the use of a centralized expense management solution, it becomes easier to improve visibility and simplicity in how staff expenses are managed.

Global Travel

Along with the need to tighten belts, many institutions of higher education are also putting an increased level of focus on expense reporting because of the move toward more international travel by staff.

Universities are continually growing in their level of globalization, as are many corporations, and this requires more robust expense tracking systems that work across international borders and are scalable, easy-to-use and meet the needs of both staff and administrators.

Defined Policies

More and more universities are putting an increasing amount of focus on making sure their expense policies are clearly outlined.

It can lead to not only the potential for inefficiency and fraud when policies aren’t outlined but also staff frustration. By highlighting policies clearly and definitively, it will lead to increased staff satisfaction with the rules and regulations they’re expected to adhere to.

Introducing New Software

If you do opt to introduce new software, it’s best to have all requirements and information about the system prepared ahead of time. You want to standardize workflows whenever possible, which will help deal with excessive complexity, and you also want to set up pre-approval requirements, per diem and travel allowance information, think about credit card vendor set-up and more.

Once you’ve introduced an expense management solution and staff become more comfortable using it, it’s always a good idea to ask for regular feedback. University employees tend to value a sense of collaboration, and they’ll be happier with the overall expense management system if they feel like their opinions are important to the process.  


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