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Business Officer Magazine

Business Briefs

Short news articles based on research surveys and peers’ business experiences that can benefit institutions

Leadership Position Influences Approach to Tough Times

Summing Up Staffing Stats


The total number of people (faculty, administrators, and other staff) employed by U.S. higher education institutions (including medical schools) in fall 2008.


The share of total employees in fall 2008 who held faculty or other instructional staff positions.


The average salary of full-time instructional staff with contracts of nine months or longer during academic 2008–09.


The average salary of full professors in that same year.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics, Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2008, and Salaries of Full-Time Instructional Staff, 2008–09.

Despite signs of economic recovery, college and university leaders continue to grapple with the effects of the recession. Repeated budget cuts have forced many public and independent colleges to lay off faculty and other staff members, cut course sections, and freeze enrollments. While such actions can be the norm in tight budgeting times, a number of additional strategies are available—with preferred options often dependent on the position held by the particular higher education leader.

Looking at such preferences can provide perspective as to the initiatives most likely to be adopted by chief business officers, provosts, and academic deans today. In 2005, I conducted a study titled “The Influence of Financial Pressure on Academic Administrators' Selection of Management and Resource Allocation Strategies.” My intent was to explore the types of strategies administrators implement to handle fiscal constraint. The study results remain timely, given the concern that budget shortfalls will continue for the foreseeable future.

Management and Resource Allocation Strategies

In the study, provosts, business officers, and academic deans from all U.S. public research institutions were asked to rank their preferences among 34 different management and resource allocation strategies commonly used for improving operations and cutting costs. A total of 2,965 senior officers were invited to participate in the study, with 1,352 providing useful responses (a 46 percent yield).

Preferences and Perspectives

The 34 specific strategies were grouped together by commonality using a variety of statistical methods. This resulted in the following eight groupings: (1) increase revenue generation and partnerships, (2) increase technology, (3) introduce innovation, (4) reduce cost of instruction, (5) reduce staff positions, (6) reduce funding, (7) reduce activities, and (8) adopt across-the-board funding reductions.

Survey responses identified revenue-generation and partnership-development strategies as the most popular ways to approach fiscal challenges. The strategies least likely to be implemented are those that result in any type of reduction.

READ AN ONLINE EXTRA. See “Favored Strategies for Facing Fiscal Constraint” in Business Officer Plus for study details.

Further, the survey found that one's position type was a significant predictor of the selection of certain categories. For example:

  • Provosts and business officers were more likely than academic deans to implement strategies that increase the use of technology.
  • Business officers were more likely than provosts and deans to consider across-the-board funding reductions. 
  • Provosts were more likely than business officers to seek out strategies that would increase revenue generation and create partnerships with other entities.

That said, it should also be noted that certain positions have more authority than others to take particular actions. For example, while the study indicates that business officers are more likely to prefer across-the-board budget cuts, they usually have little authority to make many of those cuts. So, the study measures in part which positions have the authority to make changes on campuses.

In any case, senior administrators can learn from these preferences when they consider making full use of the many resources available to them in managing and allocating resources during a time of fiscal constraint.

SUBMITTED BY Mark D. Garrett, graduate programs coordinator, Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

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Cost-Effective Connections to the Global Community

With all the talk about young people needing to be prepared for regional and cultural differences in an increasingly connected world, only about 262,000 American college and university students participated in study abroad programs in the 2007–08 academic year. That number, from the “Open Doors 2009” report of the Institute of International Education, represents a fraction of the approximately 18 million students the Department of Education notes as attending degree-granting institutions in 2007. Clearly, there is an urgent need to provide an international experience for the majority of students who don't have the opportunity for overseas study.

In response, we developed the Global Understanding project at East Carolina University (ECU), the third-largest state university within the University of North Carolina system. This effort provides a growing number of ECU's 28,000 students with essential international experiences without ever leaving the Greenville campus.

Bringing the World to ECU

Using inexpensive and relatively unsophisticated technology—a low-bandwidth video link and an e-mail chat function—we connect East Carolina students with 28 foreign institutions in 22 countries across 5 continents. We offered our first Global Understanding course in fall 2004, and within five years the project expanded to include eight course sections. Some classes are developed in lecture format and others are framed as study modules that include a one-hour lecture, a collaborative research project, and jointly taught courses.

Shared courses are typically based on the cooperation of professors in two countries agreeing on content, level, and other details. We provide faculty training workshops each semester to help faculty incorporate global components into their courses. One full-time administrator and a team of student workers provide additional program support.

We modify existing courses that are normally taught in the various curricula. Therefore, there is no additional cost for faculty salary or classroom space. We do incur expenses for student technical support. Our overseas partners have similar costs.

The East Carolina model for bringing international insight to our students is distinctive in that it links each participating class with partners at several foreign universities, exposing students to multiple points of view. Its low-cost, low-tech approach has allowed the university to build relationships with institutions in less-well-off countries, such as Pakistan and Namibia, and to sustain such interactions even as budget constraints have forced many institutions to curtail overseas and out-of-state travel.

Recognized Progress

In 2008 the Global Understanding project received an Andrew Heiskell Award for Innovation in International Education (given by the Institute of International Education)—and the 2009 Nikolai Khaladjan International Award (as part of the American Association of University Administrators' award programs).

Formal assessment has been part of the project since the beginning, and the data consistently shows that participating in the course provides transformative experiences that shape the outlook of students toward persons from other cultures. As one student says, “The Global Understanding program has influenced my academic and professional life far beyond any other student experiences I've had here. It has caused me to be more globally minded, empathetic, and knowledgeable about our diverse and deeply connected world. ... I am inspired on a daily basis as I witness students at ECU building lasting friendships with their peers all over the globe and becoming not just citizens of this great community and state, but more importantly, citizens of the world.”

To maintain the momentum of the Global Understanding project, East Carolina University continues to explore new ways to provide technology-based transformative international experiences for students unable to study abroad. With all these efforts flourishing, ECU is rapidly achieving its goal of preparing the majority of its students to be “global ready” when they graduate.

SUBMITTED BY Rosina C. Chia, assistant vice chancellor for academic initiatives, and Elmer Poe, associate vice chancellor for academic outreach, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina

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