News & Insights

Cover image of Survey of Business OfficersThe excellent online magazine Inside Higher Ed has released its first-ever survey of college and university business officers. More than 600 CFOs of U.S. institutions of higher learning responded to the survey, which asked questions about each institution's current health, most important financial challenges, strategies for coping with the recession, and budget modeling.

An article about the survey, which includes a link to the report itself, is here

There is a surprising amount of good news, but I think the most important is this: On the whole, financial officers don't believe that the quality of instruction at their institutions has been adversely affected by belt-tightening. (However, the report authors suggest that this may be because financial officers see academic expenses as bloated, and therefore they may believe that "right-sizing" academic budgets is not harmful.)

On the other hand, there are plenty of concerns. Most significantly, CFOs do not believe that deans, department chairs, faculty, alumni, or students understand the financial challenges facing the institution. At private institutions, only 11 percent of CFOs believe that elected faculty leaders understand the school's financial challenges.

The survey asked respondents about outsourcing campus custodial services, instructional technology, and even alumni relations and development. Aside from bookstores and food services, which have a long history of outsourcing at many institutions, higher education is embracing outsourcing at a lower level than is private industry. Nevertheless, about 15 percent of private institutions report that they have contracted with outside vendors for online course development. This makes me wonder if the school in this 15 percent are the vanguard of a major movement toward relying on external expertise for a core institutional function like curricular development.

The summary article on the report is well worth reading; you can find it here. The entire report is also available in PDF form here.

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