Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students Net Present Value (NPV) / MBA Resources

Introduction to Net Present Value (NPV) - What is Net Present Value (NPV) ? How it impacts financial decisions regarding project management?

NPV solution for Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students case study

At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Net Present Value (NPV) case study solution. Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by William F Meehan, Davina Drabkin. The Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students (referred as “Saaris Eos” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Strategy & Execution. It also touches upon business topics such as - Value proposition, Branding, Growth strategy, Race, Sales.

The net present value (NPV) of an investment proposal is the present value of the proposal’s net cash flows less the proposal’s initial cash outflow. If a project’s NPV is greater than or equal to zero, the project should be accepted.

NPV = Present Value of Future Cash Flows LESS Project’s Initial Investment

Case Description of Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students Case Study

During his second year as a high school teacher in South Carolina, Reid Saaris noticed that a highly academically capable student was not registered for advanced classes. The student was African American and Saaris observed that most African-American students at the school were enrolled in lower-level courses. As Saaris walked down the hallway, he could see "on one side a 12th grade English class playing an all-class game of hangman and half of the kids asleep with their teacher saying, 'Who wants to guess the next letter?' And on the other side, kids debating and discussing interesting literature and ideas about citizenship." He and the student went to the school office where Saaris switched the aspiring young man into advanced-level courses. The following year, Saaris was promoted to running the school's advanced programs. Inspired, he led an initiative to "find all the missing students" from the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs, meeting with every 10th grader at the school. The initiative had a stunning impact. Within one year, the school's AP and IB programs had doubled in size, with the number of African-American students in advanced classes tripling. At the same time, the success rate for all students on the AP and IB exams increased by 20 percent. This case recounts the subsequent path that Saaris followed to take his efforts to a national level. He established Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) with the aim of closing the access gap to advanced courses for minority and low-income students. The case details the organization's outreach and application process as well as the successes that EOS achieved and the challenges that it faced. It culminates with the announcement of the Lead Higher Initiative for which EOS would dramatically increase the number of schools with which it partnered over the next three years. Students are asked to propose a growth strategy, consider whether EOS should modify its funding model, and articulate the messages and approaches it should employ to gain the attention of school districts.

Case Authors : William F Meehan, Davina Drabkin

Topic : Strategy & Execution

Related Areas : Branding, Growth strategy, Race, Sales

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 6% for Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students Case Study

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 6 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002895) -10002895 - -
Year 1 3445723 -6557172 3445723 0.9434 3250682
Year 2 3955370 -2601802 7401093 0.89 3520265
Year 3 3966694 1364892 11367787 0.8396 3330513
Year 4 3242177 4607069 14609964 0.7921 2568108
TOTAL 14609964 12669568

The Net Present Value at 6% discount rate is 2666673

In isolation the NPV number doesn't mean much but put in right context then it is one of the best method to evaluate project returns. In this article we will cover -

Different methods of capital budgeting

What is NPV & Formula of NPV,
How it is calculated,
How to use NPV number for project evaluation, and
Scenario Planning given risks and management priorities.

Capital Budgeting Approaches

Methods of Capital Budgeting

There are four types of capital budgeting techniques that are widely used in the corporate world –

1. Payback Period
2. Net Present Value
3. Profitability Index
4. Internal Rate of Return

Apart from the Payback period method which is an additive method, rest of the methods are based on Discounted Cash Flow technique. Even though cash flow can be calculated based on the nature of the project, for the simplicity of the article we are assuming that all the expected cash flows are realized at the end of the year.

Discounted Cash Flow approaches provide a more objective basis for evaluating and selecting investment projects. They take into consideration both –

1. Magnitude of both incoming and outgoing cash flows – Projects can be capital intensive, time intensive, or both. Saaris Eos shareholders have preference for diversified projects investment rather than prospective high income from a single capital intensive project.
2. Timing of the expected cash flows – stockholders of Saaris Eos have higher preference for cash returns over 4-5 years rather than 10-15 years given the nature of the volatility in the industry.

Formula and Steps to Calculate Net Present Value (NPV) of Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students

NPV = Net Cash In Flowt1 / (1+r)t1 + Net Cash In Flowt2 / (1+r)t2 + … Net Cash In Flowtn / (1+r)tn
Less Net Cash Out Flowt0 / (1+r)t0

Where t = time period, in this case year 1, year 2 and so on.
r = discount rate or return that could be earned using other safe proposition such as fixed deposit or treasury bond rate. Net Cash In Flow – What the firm will get each year.
Net Cash Out Flow – What the firm needs to invest initially in the project.

Step 1 – Understand the nature of the project and calculate cash flow for each year.
Step 2 – Discount those cash flow based on the discount rate.
Step 3 – Add all the discounted cash flow.
Step 4 – Selection of the project

Why Strategy & Execution Managers need to know Financial Tools such as Net Present Value (NPV)?

In our daily workplace we often come across people and colleagues who are just focused on their core competency and targets they have to deliver. For example marketing managers at Saaris Eos often design programs whose objective is to drive brand awareness and customer reach. But how that 30 point increase in brand awareness or 10 point increase in customer touch points will result into shareholders’ value is not specified.

To overcome such scenarios managers at Saaris Eos needs to not only know the financial aspect of project management but also needs to have tools to integrate them into part of the project development and monitoring plan.

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 15%

After working through various assumptions we reached a conclusion that risk is far higher than 6%. In a reasonably stable industry with weak competition - 15% discount rate can be a good benchmark.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 15 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002895) -10002895 - -
Year 1 3445723 -6557172 3445723 0.8696 2996281
Year 2 3955370 -2601802 7401093 0.7561 2990828
Year 3 3966694 1364892 11367787 0.6575 2608166
Year 4 3242177 4607069 14609964 0.5718 1853725
TOTAL 10449000

The Net NPV after 4 years is 446105

(10449000 - 10002895 )

Calculating Net Present Value (NPV) at 20%

If the risk component is high in the industry then we should go for a higher hurdle rate / discount rate of 20%.

Years              Cash Flow     Net Cash Flow     Cumulative    
Cash Flow
Discount Rate
@ 20 %
Cash Flows
Year 0 (10002895) -10002895 - -
Year 1 3445723 -6557172 3445723 0.8333 2871436
Year 2 3955370 -2601802 7401093 0.6944 2746785
Year 3 3966694 1364892 11367787 0.5787 2295541
Year 4 3242177 4607069 14609964 0.4823 1563550
TOTAL 9477311

The Net NPV after 4 years is -525584

At 20% discount rate the NPV is negative (9477311 - 10002895 ) so ideally we can't select the project if macro and micro factors don't allow financial managers of Saaris Eos to discount cash flow at lower discount rates such as 15%.

Acceptance Criteria of a Project based on NPV

Simplest Approach – If the investment project of Saaris Eos has a NPV value higher than Zero then finance managers at Saaris Eos can ACCEPT the project, otherwise they can reject the project. This means that project will deliver higher returns over the period of time than any alternate investment strategy.

In theory if the required rate of return or discount rate is chosen correctly by finance managers at Saaris Eos, then the stock price of the Saaris Eos should change by same amount of the NPV. In real world we know that share price also reflects various other factors that can be related to both macro and micro environment.

In the same vein – accepting the project with zero NPV should result in stagnant share price. Finance managers use discount rates as a measure of risk components in the project execution process.

Sensitivity Analysis

Project selection is often a far more complex decision than just choosing it based on the NPV number. Finance managers at Saaris Eos should conduct a sensitivity analysis to better understand not only the inherent risk of the projects but also how those risks can be either factored in or mitigated during the project execution. Sensitivity analysis helps in –

What can impact the cash flow of the project.

What will be a multi year spillover effect of various taxation regulations.

What are the uncertainties surrounding the project Initial Cash Outlay (ICO’s). ICO’s often have several different components such as land, machinery, building, and other equipment.

What are the key aspects of the projects that need to be monitored, refined, and retuned for continuous delivery of projected cash flows.

Understanding of risks involved in the project.

Some of the assumptions while using the Discounted Cash Flow Methods –

Projects are assumed to be Mutually Exclusive – This is seldom the came in modern day giant organizations where projects are often inter-related and rejecting a project solely based on NPV can result in sunk cost from a related project.

Independent projects have independent cash flows – As explained in the marketing project – though the project may look independent but in reality it is not as the brand awareness project can be closely associated with the spending on sales promotions and product specific advertising.

References & Further Readings

William F Meehan, Davina Drabkin (2018), "Equal Opportunity Schools: Finding the Missing Students Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.