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Business Officer Magazine
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Back Story

Profiles of individuals in roles that support the work of the chief business officer—and who represent the majority of the Business Officer reading audience

By Margo Vanover Porter

David Sengstock
David A. Sengstock

Management Analyst 
St. Catherine Universty, St. Paul, Minnesota  
10 years in higher education

Sengstock: All That Jazz

A management analyst by profession, David A. Sengstock remains a musician at heart. "I started playing the saxophone back in fourth grade, like many kids do," he says. "I've been playing ever since."

Now a member of a local seven-member jazz ensemble, Jazz Etc., he performs for wedding receptions and parties. "It's fun being an amateur because you don't have the dog-eat-dog world of professional musicians," he says.

Already accomplished on the sax, flute, clarinet, and French horn, Sengstock decided to add the cello to his repertoire because "I love the sound it makes."

When not making music, Sengstock performs as a management analyst at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where his two daughters currently study. Married to Michele, he also enjoys camping.

What common budgeting mistakes do you see?

Although we offer budget training every year, we run into three challenging areas. Some budget managers don't understand that money left over in the operating budget doesn't automatically carry over to the new year. Another misconception is that people think they get to keep the revenue generated outside of tuition, such as program fees, for their academic programs. 

Another very common mistake occurs when people are running out of money in an account. Rather than apply the expense where it really belongs, they apply it to an account with a budget balance. They should move the budget, not the expense, or it interferes with the true reflection of what was spent.

What challenge is your institution currently facing?

Similar to most institutions, we are encountering changing demographics and the higher ed bubble, in terms of the sustainability of what we're asking for tuition and the net we get annually between revenue and financial aid.

What steps has St. Kate's taken to respond?

We are in the process of transitioning from a college to a university, and we recently adjusted our weekend program calendar to be in sync with our other programs. St. Kate's has three colleges: a college for women with a day enrollment of 2,085 and a weekend/evening/online enrollment of 669; an associate college with 922 students; and a graduate college with 1,412 students.  

Any other steps?

We are trying to work collaboratively with other colleges to generate more purchasing power and back-room leverage. For example, when we started the process of purchasing the Banner system in 2006, we collaborated with four other institutions in the Twin Cities area. Through this collaboration we were able to cut down on costs by implementing our systems at the same time and helping each other during the process.

How's Banner working out?

Well. Like our prior system, Banner has modules for finance, HR, financial aid, admissions, and so forth. Its user interface is much friendlier than the prior system. However, in the prior system, all the modules were integrated and flowed back and forth with information. In Banner, you do have to do a nightly push of information.

In your opinion, what's the financial forecast? 

I would say guarded. You may have heard that a university here in the Twin Cities recently dropped its tuition by $10,000, as part of a movement to be more "transparent" in its pricing. 

Would that model work at St. Kate's?

Changing to a schedule of lower tuition and lower aid could be problematic for institutions with a mission like ours, which is to serve underserved students.

What gives you the most satisfaction in your work?

When I get a massive amount of data and I am able to put it on a page so it makes sense and tells a story. I enjoy presenting the final product after a lot of number crunching.

MARGO VANOVER PORTER, Locust Grove, Virginia, covers higher education business issues for Business Officer.