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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas

College Presidents Cite Finances as Top Priority

November 3, 2005

A balanced budget is considered to be the top performance indicator by which four-year college presidents measure their success, according to a new survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Four-year college presidents reported allocating the majority of their time to fundraising issues and budget and finance matters. "While the job of a college president is often still filled by former provosts, their top priority these days is more akin to that of a chief financial officer," the Chronicle notes.

The Chronicle’s survey, sent to the 1,338 presidents or chancellors of four-year colleges across the country, drew 764 responses. The purpose of the study was to provide a broad view of the personal and professional life of a college president. 

Financial issues surfaced as an underlying theme throughout the survey findings. Highlights include:

  • More than half of the presidents (53 percent) said they spent part of every day on fundraising, which was also the activity that they indicated they were least prepared for. Forty-four percent identified budget and finance matters as their most time-consuming activity.
  • Five of the six top concerns that presidents cited related to financial issues: rising health care costs, rising tuition, financial aid, technology costs, and inadequate faculty salaries.
  • Almost half (49 percent) said they met with their chief financial officer daily, while only 18 percent said they talked to their head of student affairs every day.

Among other findings:

  • Fifty-three percent indicated that tenure for faculty members should be abolished in favor of long-term contracts.
  • Fifty-nine percent said “big-time” college athletics programs are more of a liability than an asset.
  • Only 19 percent were selected for their presidency from a position at their own institution.

For additional findings, visit The Chronicle of Higher Education (requires membership)