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Business Officer Magazine

Advice for Senior Leaders

In addition to the Monday morning concurrent sessions on personal professional development, there were numerous additional sessions on other aspects of leadership. Here are a few examples.

Toward Better Student Financial Aid Policies

Are institutional aid funding decisions, awards, policies, and practices consistent with the mission and values of the institution? That's the question that a joint project, conducted by NACUBO and the Association of Governing Boards (AGB), set out to answer. In the session "Creating Metrics to Guide Institutional Financial Aid Policy," Kenneth Redd, NACUBO's director of research and policy analysis, moderated a panel discussion explaining the purpose, scope, and next steps of the project, funded by the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

Panel participants included David Walker, vice president for finance and planning at Messiah College in central Pennsylvania; and Betty Roberts, senior vice president and chief financial officer, Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi.

Institutional grant aid exceeds $42 billion annually, according to the College Board. The NACUBO-AGB project focuses on developing metrics to help senior leaders understand how this significant amount of aid is being used and what specific data can help in making aid decisions that support institutional mission. Roberts noted that "financial aid is a critical component of who we are, because of whom we serve. As a public and historically black institution, we need to be more strategic in our decisions about institutional grant aid."

Walker said, "We've been too myopic in focusing our enrollment management actions on bringing in the fall class," he said. "We are using this project as a basis for longer-term considerations on the part of our leadership team—and ultimately our trustees and advancement committee."

The panel concluded by noting that the set of common institutional aid metrics identified by the project can help colleges make data-informed decisions about how they use institutional grant aid. This fall, presidents of 17 colleges and universities will test these metrics via an online tool AGB and NACUBO are developing.

The Changing Role of the CBO

"We have a pipeline issue," said Marta Perez Drake, vice president for professional development at NACUBO. "It's not because our members are unhappy, it's because our members are getting older."

Drake led off the session titled "Preparing for the Future: The Chief Business Officer's Evolution" with some findings from NACUBO's 2013 National Profile of Higher Education Chief Business Officers (available as an online research publication at She noted that 55 percent of CBOs are over age 55, and 40 percent said their next move would be retirement. "Who's going to fill all these positions?" she asked.

"What can we do now to prepare a lifeline? You need to cultivate your direct reports—and think about women, people of color, and those who come from nontraditional areas" as future CBOs, she said.

Almost half of NACUBO's CBO members are from small institutions, said panelist Robert Moore, vice president of finance and administration and treasurer, Colorado College. "The highest dissatisfaction with the job is at the smallest institutions, and it's hard to do succession planning there because teams are small."

Key concerns of CBOs were the focus of a recent survey conducted by Gallup for Inside Higher Ed and reported on by Doug Lederman, the publication's coeditor. For example, results showed that 27 percent of business officers had strong confidence in the viability of their institution's business model over the next 5 years, but only 13 percent were confident that the financial model would be sustainable over 10 years.

As CBOs address major financial issues, they must partner with other campus leadership, panelists said. "If others haven't embraced the challenge, particularly on the academic side, how do we both educate them and work collaboratively?" asked Jennifer "J.J." Davis, senior vice president for administration and finance, George Mason University, Virginia.

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