NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

University Business Officers Upbeat about Financial State of American Colleges

July 7, 2011

A new survey from Inside Higher Ed reveals a surprisingly upbeat assessment about the financial state of American college campuses (especially private nonprofit ones), as seen through the eyes of their chief finance (CFO) and business officials.

  • About one in six business officers at both public and private nonprofit colleges described the financial health of their respective institutions as "excellent."
  • Another 57 percent of public-college CFOs and 47 percent of private-college CFOs characterized their respective institutions' financial health as "good."
  • Business officers at public and private institutions alike also generally rebuffed the notion that the budget cuts their institutions have suffered so far have damaged the quality of their academic programs or academic support for students.

Among other highlights of the survey of 606 business officers:

  • Nearly 4 in 10 business officers at public and private colleges alike said their institutions had already decided to outsource, or were considering outsourcing, the development of instructional resources or the delivery of instruction for their online academic programs.
  • Less than 40 percent of business officers at public and private institutions alike said their colleges were very effective at using data to inform decision making, and less than a third said their colleges' budget models were very effective at helping the institutions set or reassess their priorities.
  • Six in 10 said there are too many "sacred cows" at their institutions that cannot be touched.

Source: Doug Lederman, "Maintenance over Management: A Survey of Business Officers," Inside Higher Education, July 6, 2011.

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