You’re following all the rules. You’re social distancing; you’re requiring masks on campus; you’re keeping students, staff, and faculty as separate and safe as possible. It’s what COVID demands, and you’re doing it.
You’re also dealing with the economic fallout of the shutdown, which isn’t any easier. Forty-two percent of finance and administrative leaders at U.S. colleges and universities, in fact, are struggling to manage new categories of spend brought on by the pandemic while, at the same time, attempting to adapt organizational policies to fit work-from-home dynamics. It’s a significant challenge, to say the least. Add in unexpected expenses, which 41% of higher ed institutions say they’re not sure how to manage, and you’ve got a real fight on your hands.
You’ve got help, however, with CARES Act funding, grants, and other support to keep your institution running and serving students. But this help comes with conditions, making compliance absolutely critical.
Expense types aren’t what they used to be
Masks, of course, are obvious. Unexpected, but obvious. You need to provide personal protective gear to faculty and staff when they come into the office, and that’s a cost for which you have to account. What you might not have thought about (and certainly weren’t prepared for) was the costs of working from home.
Remote employees are buying postage and paperclips and paying internet providers, and the bills are landing on your desk. They have OSHA requirements to meet at their desks and their home workspaces, and you’re getting those bills, too.
If you don’t put policies in place to manage these expenses – if you don’t create unique expense categories with specific rules – you end up stuck in some sort of Wild West Spending Spree that damages your internal policies and defies regulatory requirements.
Reporting requirements aren’t either
Government regulations, donor requirements, your own internal reporting standards – they certainly haven’t loosened in light of the pandemic. And the responsibility to track how and where and when you spend any granted funds is all on you. The audits for which could take years.
Seeing and controlling your invoices and expenses under this scrutiny is more challenging and more crucial than ever.
Automation might just be the most intelligent answer
When your expense and invoice processes are entirely automated, you can see all the details on all your spending. You can put policies in place that allow you to see where your spend is going before it’s spent, and you have a data trail to back up every decision.
Detailed dashboards and reports bring you real-time visibility, so you can take proactive control of your compliance policies – and you’ll know what’s working, what’s not, and where fixes need to happen.
In the end, you not only know how funding is being used and how effective your policies are, you know how to adapt as requirements change. And if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that change can be more severe than we thought.