Frequently Asked Questions


What is the SACUBO Benchmarking Project?

The SACUBO Benchmarking Project is a customized, on-demand peer benchmarking service available on demand to SACUBO members. Users are able to filter reports and charts to meet their needs.

What does it cost to participate?

It is free! Thanks to the generosity and support of Cherry Bekaert, there is no cost to SACUBO members.

How did the SACUBO Benchmarking Project come about?

As a benefit to SACUBO members, SACUBO partnered with Cherry Bekaert LLP to develop a benchmarking template for collecting specific financial and demographic information from participating institutions. SACUBO’s Benchmarking Committee, representing a cross section of SACUBO institutions, surveyed the constituency in order to determine what benchmarks were needed for strategic analysis by business officers. The committee identified, as a priority, financial and demographic information that could be easily collected and submitted. An Excel-based data collection tool was utilized so that Cherry Bekaert could prepare PDF reports for those participating. Participants had the option to contract with Cherry Bekaert for customized reports that focused on subsets of institutions.

In 2014, the original Excel-based data collection method and PDF reports were replaced with a cloud-based data collection and reporting tool. Institutions participating in previous years were provided access to the tool and those not participating were invited to register. New participants can establish accounts for their institution on the online platform anytime.

What does the project offer?

The online tool, from Dynamic Benchmarking, is self-service and thus on-demand. It provides for data collection, analysis and reporting – all in one place. Users can create customized peer groups for comparison. There are lots of filters, including institution type, constituent group, location, total students, tuition and fees. Best of all, custom reporting and peer reporting is free!

Each institution has at least one System Administrator who can register others from their campus and assign access rights (read, write, etc.).

What benchmarks are included?

In our first phase, targeted benchmarks were:

  • Revenue and Expense per FTE Student
  • Revenue and Expense per FTE Employee
    • Appropriations per student FTE (publics)
    • Expenditures per functional area
    • Compensation & Benefits Costs per FTE (in total and by function)
    • Functional cost categories per student dollar
    • Support Unit Expenditures to Total Expenditures
    • Functional Cost Categories per FTE
    • Staffing Levels to support Services

Additional benchmarks have been added:

  • Effectiveness Benchmarks
    • Undergraduate Graduation Rate
    • Freshman Retention Rate
  • Other Benchmarks
    • Days of Operating Cash on Hand
    • Tuition Discount Rate
    • Depreciation included as part of budget?

Will other benchmarking information be available?

The Benchmarking Committee was careful to develop the study initially such that data collection was reasonable. Based upon the response of our constituent institutions, SACUBO will expand the Benchmark Survey as needed.

How can our institution participate?

Visit SACUBO Benchmark Study website and fill out the registration form.

What does my institution get for this?

Your institution will have free access to the resulting benchmarking information so that you can see how your institution compares with its peers. Benchmarking allows you to identify resource investment (or reduction) opportunities, performance measures for divisions within your institution and provide an overall view of best practice improvement areas.

What about privacy? Will my institution’s specific information be kept confidential?

Absolutely. No identifying information for your institution will be shared with other institutions. Although you can select peer institutions for comparison, a minimum of five (5) institutions will be required and those institutions will not be identified.

Is there a deadline to submit information?

Deadlines are established annually. Data collection for each fiscal year normally begins in November. Typically, the deadline for submitting current year data is around the end of February, with reports available in early March. This gives those institutions with fiscal year ends of June 30-August 31 time to prepare financial statements and have them audited. SACUBO strives to keep the data collection open for as long as possible because the more institutions that participate, the better the benchmark comparisons are.

Institutions can also load prior year’s data into the database, back to 2012. One or more years, or all years, it’s up to you.

How do I complete the study?

Easy. Once you have registered and gained access to the benchmarking tool, access the Quick Start Guide. This guide will provide instructions on how to enter data and use the reporting tool.

Where do I get this information?

Your budgeting or financial reporting staff should know. Much of this information can be pulled directly from your audited financial statements. Public institutions can obtain the Operating Expense information from the required Operating Expenses by Function Footnote.

Your institutional budget or Human Resources office can usually provide Employee FTE information per functional category. Or perhaps in partnership with you financial reporting staff.

The other information should also be available from your institution’s financial statements.

Are audited financial statements required?

Audited financial statement information is preferred but not required. If you think your unaudited data is not significantly different from your audited data, then use it; especially if it enables you to participate.

My institution is part of a system and does not have audited financial statements at this time. How do I participate?

One of the benefits of this study is that the benchmark information will be available long before many other sources. So, in this case, you would provide the most recent information for each fiscal year from your general ledger. The information you submit should be the same that you submit to your system for that fiscal year. Additionally, you will be able to modify your SACUBO benchmarking data once the audited financial statements are complete.

What about Employee FTE Information? Should we include students in this count?

This is a common question. Some institutions employ so many students that to exclude them would substantially affect their results. With others, the number and cost of student employees is minimal. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent with what you report elsewhere. If you normally exclude student employee FTE information from your Employee FTE counts, then you should also exclude them here.

When should we pull Student FTE Information?

The timing of our Employee count should be consistent with your institutional policies. Many institutions traditionally use fall student census numbers for their reported student FTE count. Consistent reporting is very important.

Can you clarify what should be reported under “Operating Revenue?”

Public institutions would follow GASB reporting requirements while Private institutions would follow FASB.

GASB requires that some revenues used to finance operations be classified as non-operating revenues. State operating appropriations, investment income (except interest income on student loans), spendable gifts, and Pell grants are all reported as non-operating revenues in the GASB model, and so should be excluded from operating revenues reported in the Benchmarking data.

FASB, on the other hand, allows independent institutions to present an operating measure, but does not require one. If one is presented, the institution determines which items are operating and which are non-operating.

Who do I contact for questions about the benchmark study?

Contact any member of the Benchmarking Committee or send an email to Benchmarking Support.