Case Study: SACUBO/Cherry Bekaert Benchmark Project


The Southern Association of College and University Business Officers (“SACUBO”), is a significant trade association focused on developing improved principles and efficient practices in the business and financial management of colleges and universities.  Cherry Bekaert has been a long-time supporter of SACUBO and also serves as the organization’s auditors.  In the spring of 2012, the association approached Cherry Bekaert about increasing the level of sponsorship by becoming the first member of their newly-created Strategic Leadership Alliance.  SACUBO was looking for opportunities to create value for the SACUBO membership through new programs and initiatives and offered Cherry Bekaert the opportunity to be an exclusive sponsor.  After several conversations, the idea of benchmarking data using data points that are currently unavailable to the broad membership on a more current basis than other benchmarking programs in the industry was determined to be a project both entities could get excited about.

“We believe this study will provide information not available elsewhere, and we’re so pleased that our partnership with Cherry Bekaert has enabled us to deliver this benefit to our members,” said SACUBO President Susie McCormick. “I urge all members to participate in the survey and help us build this resource for the future.”

The SACUBO leadership appointed Patrick Wamsley, CFO at the Medical University of South Carolina, as the primary liaison from SACUBO to the project.  Patrick assembled a committee of SACUBO business officers representing research and doctoral institutions, comprehensive universities, small institutions (public and private) and community colleges.  This group met over the summer to determine what data points to benchmark and to define the data points to ensure comparability.  “For the initial rollout of the project the committee members developed a limited number of data points that could be easily captured and utilized to create meaningful benchmarks,” noted Wamsley. “We looked for benchmarks that weren’t already being produced by other organizations.  If they were, we tried to find a way in which they could be produced quicker.”  In the meantime, a Cherry Bekaert team led by Jim Ratchford and Matthew Socha worked on developing the survey collection tool and report format to communicate the findings.

The project was launched at the SACUBO Fall Workshop in Tampa, Florida November 4 – 6, 2012.  SACUBO and Cherry Bekaert held a joint workshop to explain SACUBO’s interest in the project, as well as to provide a demonstration of how to use the collection tool and export the results to a secure website.  SACUBO member schools had until December31, 2012 to upload their data and select their category for comparison for fiscal years 2010, 2011 and 2012. For the initial year, the benchmarks are centered on operating expenses and full-time equivalents per functional area.  The findings will be available to the participating schools at no costs in early March 2013. Check the Cherry Bekaert Education Blog site for summary information on the findings.