CEO Notebook

Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE

President and CEO
Twitter: @shieldsNBOA

Thriving with a Chronic Condition

From Net Assets NOW, May 23, 2017. Read past issues of CEO Notebook.

William Baumol was a renowned economist who in 1965 developed data to explain why costs in labor-intensive industries — such as education and health care — rise faster than costs in industries such as manufacturing and agriculture, where technology has greatly increased productivity. At independent schools, "Baumol's cost disease" plays out primarily in rising compensation costs for faculty who teach a limited number of students or classes. Baumol died May 4 at the age of 95, but his legacy persists as a chronic condition, and potentially a permanent reality, that affects the business model of nearly every independent school.

Independent school leaders sometimes feel as if we are operating in unprecedented times, amid challenges more daunting than any faced by leaders before us. With regard to the competitive market of preK-12, this may be true. However, it continues to frustrate school leaders that our operational costs are immune to so many of the technological advances that have advanced productivity and kept costs low in other sectors. And it can be difficult to defend this reality year after year after year to our families. But we must harness our best thinking to limit the impact or symptoms of Baumol's disease so that they do not become barriers to our ability to serve future generations of students.

Instead, we must continue to address — and eventually reconcile — legitimate concerns with regard to our business model. For instance:

As we pay tribute to William Baumol, I'd like to frame his passing as a reminder that the issues we are grappling with are systemic. As independent school leaders, we are caretakers of something special and important, but the challenges articulated by Baumol preceded us by decades and will likely outlive us all. It is our generation's duty to innovate our way through them.

Jeff Shields

Jeffrey Shields, FASAE, CAE
President and CEO

Jeff has been NBOA's president and CEO since March 2010. Prior to joining NBOA, he spent almost 10 years at the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), serving most recently as senior vice president and chief planning officer. An active member of the American Society of Association Executives, Jeff earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation in 2002 and was selected as an ASAE Fellow in 2008. He currently serves as a trustee for One Schoolhouse and Georgetown Day School in Washington, DC.

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