Puerto Rico - Building the Business School that Puerto Rico Needs
Universidad Sagrado Corazon
“May we be sustained by the conviction that education bears within itself a seed of hope: the hope of peace and justice; the hope of beauty and goodness; the hope of social harmony” - Pope Francis, 2010
What was the problem?The goal for the BOTFL XIV team in Puerto Rico was to identify opportunities for Sagrado to grow and serve the greater Puerto Rico community in building its economy through the launch of a business school. After our in-country visit, we realized that the people of Puerto Rico are passionate, caring and very responsible towards developing their community. However the island has been plagued by various systemic issues such as ineffective governance, weak education system and public institutions, lack of infrastructure, labor skill gap, and population flight and decline.
Hurricane Maria, Earthquake and the Pandemic severely exasperated the systemic issues impacting the island over the past few years. Moreover the Puerto Rican government went bankrupt in 2016. To support the Puerto Rican Government and help the island recover from the natural disasters, the US government allocated aid to the tune of $90 Billion. While this as helpful, and led to bringing some normalcy to the island, it has led to less number of people working to earn their livelihood, as 58% of Puerto Ricans currently receive government assistance, which they would otherwise lose if they would work.
After analyzing and exploring the education market, we found out that the K-12 education curriculum in PR is behind and is not effectively preparing students for university or the workforce. The feedback from employers was that most students are not employable as there is a skill gap that is not being effectively addressed by Universities. Moreover, students have a conflict between working and studying and need to work while in school to pay tuition that increases the average graduation time to 6 years.
Universidad del Sagrado Corazón was facing increased competition and a shrinking number of students that were equipped with a lower baseline of academic education and fewer skills, and brought in the BOTFL team to evaluate (1) the market demands (2) a proposed curriculum that is in alignment with the market demand (3) explore possibility of rolling out an honors program, and (4) factors that will contribute to the new program's success.
What did we do?
Prior to our in-country experience, the team’s research focused on three key areas: (1) how is the existing student journey from high school to graduation and employment, (2) the university ecosystem with a focus on teaching and research, recruiting and marketing to prospective students, alumni relations, and finally, (3) reputation and word of mouth from current students and alumni.
With the support of our in-country partner, the team was able to conduct several interviews and travel all across the Island to interact with small businesses, large employers, high schools, University faculty and students, and ex-government officials. These conversations led to the following key insights:
(1) we found that businesses operating on the island do have a demand for recent undergraduate hires, especially those who are equipped with business analytics and data management skills. The common thread among all industries was that strategic decisions in most organizations are being powered by business analytics that rely on data (2) Sagrado needs to offer a differentiated program addressing market demands and in alignment with its mission, and (3) there should be a defined process to attract and retain top quality students.
What was the turning point?
The team’s time spent in-country proved to be a key element of the research and problem solving process for Sagrado. Through numerous interviews across the island with various stakeholders, and interactions with Sagrado's President, Provost and Business school dean, the team understood that biggest impact can be made by helping Sagrado design a curriculum program based on business analytics, that was backed by feasibility analysis, to help Sagrado become the business school that Puerto Rico needs.
The team understood that implementing a business analytics major that is as per benchmarks set by some of the top universities in the USA, can help Sagrado improve its market share, help attract top employers in the island and improve its reputation as one of the premier business schools in Puerto Rico. This also will help Sagrado develop valuable external relationships both with industries and alumni and may lead to endowments and grants in the long term. It can also help Sagrado improve its yield, which is currently lower than peer schools.
What was the recommendation?
The team provided the following recommendations that can help Sagrado grow its business school in Puerto Rico:
- Sagrado has fewer than 500 students enrolled in the business school today therefore, there is an opportunity for Sagrado to grow by 60% by offering one additional major of Business Analytics. The business analytics will have a spillover effect on the number of students enrolled across the majors given that as technology advances, each segment will require broad knowledge in analytics.
- A business school honors program would support Sagrado’s goal of attracting top high school students, who currently are choosing competing universities. GPA and test scores alone cannot be the determining criteria for selecting students for the Honors program. Other key elements Sagrado should look at are alignment of Sagrado’s mission to student fit and alignment of honors program goals and curriculum. In order to evaluate these elements of student applicants, Sagrado should require application components beyond high school GPA and College Board or SAT scores.
- Based on business analytics majors, concentrations, and/or certificates offered at Notre Dame, MIT, UC Berkeley, and Georgia Tech, the team proposed a curriculum.
- Onboarding top faculty and investing in infrastructure such as computer labs would be an important part of the strategy to ensure that Sagrado is able to run the Business Analytics Curriculum and Program in a way that delivers successful education and career outcomes. However, Sagrado has the opportunity to leverage current resources from other schools and departments to keep startup costs low.