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Business Officer Magazine

CBOs Reflect on Recession-Related Role Shifts

Last fall, NACUBO members answered a short e-mail poll about how the downturn has affected the role of chief business officer. Here are some of their responses.

Edited by Dorothy Wagener

When we asked how the Great Recession has most affected chief business officers, you answered. Here is a summary of your collective thoughts in response to an e-mail poll asking the three questions below. The responses that follow supplement those that appeared in the May 2010 issue of Business Officer.

Have your role and responsibilities as a CBO changed?

Change in emphasis

There has been much greater scrutiny of the financial side of the college. As a result I have had to present much more detailed financial information to the cabinet along with explanations. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it definitely has created more work.

Barb Pooley, Mount Mercy College, Iowa

While my overall duties have not changed, there is definitely a heightened focus on fiscal responsibility and budgetary management and control at all levels within the institution. Additionally, cost reduction areas once considered somewhat “off limits” have been “on the table” and open for review (e.g., programs, faculty/staff positions, salary increases, benefits, etc.).

Greg Haselden, Erskine College, South Carolina

I am much more involved in the strategic planning of our enrollment management and marketing/recruitment plans. As the impact of the economy has been difficult to predict, I am more focused on watching the trends and making strategic adjustments to our plans. I believe the changes are likely permanent, as the entire senior management team will be required to spend more time on these issues.

Michael Giampietro, Bay Path College, Massachusetts

More involved campuswide

The greater scrutiny required due to limited resources requires that I be involved in every aspect of campus decisions, because all decisions have financial ramifications. I would hope the changes are permanent, but my concern is that when the economy recovers, we may revert to the “business as usual” approach.

Mark Noftsinger, Roanoke College, Virginia

While my role and responsibilities have remained the same, people seem to listen more attentively to what we say regarding college finances. They are also watching you very carefully . . . since it isn't just what you say, it is what you do that really matters.

Keith Houck, Valencia Community College, Florida

I have been asked to play a more active role in university risk management assessment, especially as it pertains to “reputational” risk management. I have also been asked to play a more active role in negotiations with our united faculty. More and more requests for giving presentations on the university's financial condition to internal and external audiences are being made. The roles have not changed as much as the time spent in each role has changed. Where I had been spending 40 to 45 percent in facilities management and capital projects planning, now more and more time is spent in the areas of financial planning, budget strategy development, budget allocation defense, cost containment, revenue enhancement, intercollegiate athletic funding development, sustainability, and university risk management. In all likelihood, the changes will be permanent.

Tom Schellhardt, University of Northern Iowa

The role has increased as financial implications of many academic and student affairs options have risen more to the forefront, forming a stronger partnership with others in senior administration. I do think this change will be a permanent one.

William Maki, Bemidji State University, Minnesota

No change

I don't think my roles and responsibilities have changed; rather, perhaps the college community has become more aware of them and their individual contributions to student satisfaction, thus increasing overall revenue and limiting expenses. The economic downturn has created more challenges and more work for CFOs, but our roles and responsibilities have not changed: They are just more visible and at the forefront of institutional awareness.

Michael Hoyle, Lasell College, Massachusetts

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Has your status or visibility at your institution changed?

Greater leadership role

My visibility is far higher than during normal times. I have had a great deal of support from faculty, in particular.

Beth Hardin, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

I don't think status has changed, but visibility certainly has. The responsibility for communicating the rationale behind the decisions and for updating the campus community has increased. The frequency of requests from media for information has increased. And, reporting requirements to both the system office and the legislature have increased.

Charles Maimone, University of North Carolina Wilmington

We have constantly researched efficient operations. This approach has positioned the university with a leaner management structure than our peers. When we compare our number of employees in most administrative categories with our peers in finance and administration, we generally have far fewer today. We discuss more finance alternatives than in the past as a result of cuts coming from state appropriations and we have dealt with them in the more traditional ways—reducing travel to conferences, reducing professional development opportunities, examining each vacant position for rehire, and limiting salary increases for the current fiscal year. If we were to make any further cuts it would be very difficult.

Jennus Burton, Arizona State University System

Not really

There are added pressures to be even more transparent in explaining the difficult decisions that have to be made; however, status and visibility is essentially the same.

Dennis Klaus, Salt Lake Community College, Utah

I don't believe status or visibility has changed, but I have more people feeling empathy for me.

Tom Phizacklea, Goucher College, Maryland

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What are you doing now as a chief business officer that you never imagined you'd be doing five years ago?

Taking on new responsibilities

Managing the finances for both the university and the hospital and its clinics.

Scott Scarborough, University of Toledo, Ohio

Dealing with potential flu pandemics has become a new and somewhat unexpected challenge, but otherwise, challenges as CBO have remained as diverse as ever.

Dennis Klaus, Salt Lake Community College, Utah

I did not think we would be negotiating so strongly with our letter of credit providers about the value and future of our university. The credit market collapse has impacted us more than we might have imagined.

Brian Holland, Oklahoma City University

Looking for ways to innovate basic processes. Constantly assessing whether to have services remain insourced or to outsource them. Reacting to many competing interests of the institution's stakeholders—there are more of them and they, like today's market, are fragmented, each asking for their agenda.

Wendell Followell, Kentucky Community and Technical College System

Considering the institutional perspective

Finding the available time to respond to so many pressing campus issues.

Joseph Garvey, Marywood University, Pennsylvania

I did not think I would be truly worrying about the sustainability of the higher education business model, particularly as it relates to issues surrounding access and affordability. The impact of the financial correction/crisis, the ensuing long and deep recession, and the unprecedented government involvement in the economy will likely play out over many years with very real consequences for our institutions and future generations of students.

Michael Lochhead, College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts

What stands out for me is the extent to which we must reshape the physical campus to meet the needs of the university for the future, and the extent to which we must find more cost-effective ways to deliver quality services to those we serve.

Jerry L. Scoby, Ferris State University, Michigan

During the past two years, our state funding has been reduced from the original appropriations due to lack of state revenue. I'm now going to the state's Web site every month to see how revenue collections are going to predict whether or not we need to give back state appropriations.

Keith Houck, Valencia Community College, Florida

Perhaps the most significant thing I find myself engaged in today that I did not imagine five years ago is planning and leading the college to become self-sufficient. That is, I believe that public resources, especially state, will become a lot less of a part of the college's revenue mix. Midlands Technical College will have to figure out ways to sustain the teaching and learning process through constant reinventing itself and innovative revenue strategies.

Ron Rhames, Midlands Technical College, South Carolina

Due to the challenges of the economy, the wide range of issues that I become involved in are all critical. The times have demanded that all options be examined with scrutiny for their potential impact on advancing the institution's mission, strategic plan, and bottom line.

Michael Hoyle, Lasell College, Massachusetts

Change in plans

I'm still working—I had thought I would have retired by now, but that will have to wait a few years.

Duane Schlomer, Wisconsin Lutheran College

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