How New Salary Overtime Regulations Could Impact Higher Ed

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Pressures are increasing on the business of higher education from many directions. Reductions in funding, problems finding and keeping staff, challenging new regulations, and more are burdening the staff of colleges and universities.

As a result, higher education administrative offices are experiencing an increasing amount of work and a decreasing number of workers. Providing quality service to students is critical to maintaining enrollment, but staff may struggle to do so when other duties are piling up, and resources are limited.

Update on the overtime rule

In April 2024, the US Department of Labor finalized a rule on overtime benefits that will likely have significant short-term consequences for higher education staff. Colleges and universities were previously exempt from providing overtime pay to employees salaried at or above $35,568. The revised rule increases this threshold to $58,656 and automatically updates the salary threshold every three years. Estimated to affect up to four million workers, the sudden, large increase in costs to institutions are likely to impact budgets and staffing decisions.

Staff turnover

In addition to the overtime rule, hiring and retaining employees has been a growing problem recently. The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources 2023 Employee Retention Survey found that staff retention problems are persisting, as employee turnover increased by 81 percent for exempt staff and increased by 61 percent for non-exempt staff from 2020 to 2023.

Financial aid staffing is of particular concern, as 56 percent of these professionals said they are likely to look for another job in the next year, 50 percent believe they are not fairly paid, and 47 percent believe there are few opportunities for career advancement.

Funding positions and finding applicants

Losing staff is always difficult, and recently it has often included veteran employees, a particularly painful loss. They possess irreplaceable institutional knowledge and professional experience, and losing their wisdom significantly impacts the ability to provide services, maintain processes, and fulfill the mission of an institution. Some of these positions are not “backfilled” when staff leave for budgetary or other reasons, hurting offices further.

Administrators have cited an inability to find good candidates when attempting to fill vacant positions, with 39 percent noting a decrease in qualified applicants and 31 percent experiencing a decrease in overall applications. To make the situation worse, finding senior, experienced staff is even more difficult due to various factors.

Funding for positions has also decreased as institutions’ budgets shrink due to shifts in enrollment, with different types of institutions experiencing different enrollment patterns. There has been consolidation of state systems and flagships negatively affected by the demographic cliff, a marked decrease in students attending public regional universities, continuing declines at rural schools, and a variety of pressures on small liberal arts and religious-affiliated colleges.

Get help and extend service

If your staff total is low, decreasing, less experienced, overwhelmed by new responsibilities, or facing seasonal peaks of work, there are options. A trusted third-party provider can support your team by handling calls, chats, and emails so staff can focus on critical responsibilities and institutional goals.

A staff extension solution is flexible enough to meet your needs and scalable to fit the size and duration of the project. Whether you need a full enterprise staffing solution, temporary assistance with a seasonal flood of requests, or extra hands for a custom project, staff extension will reduce your workload and support services important to students and the institution.

Third-party support can provide an inviting experience and give well-informed advice because they are trained in your institution’s policies, processes, and standards and professional customer service standards. But they go farther, learning institutional jargon and policy terminology to ensure they can “talk the talk” and represent not just the institution’s administration but a school’s spirit and unique traditions.

Data analytics are also used to inform decisions on how best to support the unique needs of your student population. Customizable dashboards provide real-time visibility into performance and outcomes, reporting on service request reason, volume, resolution, escalations, and other metrics vital to understanding students and providing them with quality service.

Extended benefits

Extending your staff reduces repetitive tasks and handles high volumes of requests that burden higher education business offices. It also quickly connects students to the information they need and the resolutions they seek with a welcoming, supportive attitude.

The benefits of staff extension are many. Institutions can redistribute critical, mission-oriented tasks to internal staff and accomplish more strategic projects and goals. Staff extension also provides an economical and efficient path to adding expertise, increased capabilities, and industry expertise to a business office, but without the time and costs of training and onboarding staff and selecting and purchasing the technology needed for the job. When a sudden need occurs, a staff extension solution can take on the work more quickly than a college or university.

Learn more about how ECSI’s CXSelect can extend and enhance the capabilities of your staff and improve student experience with a suite of high-touch, high-tech solutions for the full student lifecycle.