The annual meeting of the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) last week in Montreal, Canada provided a great opportunity to gain face-time with leading higher education institutions. Representing chief business and financial officers from more than 2,100 colleges and universities across the country, the association annually pulls together the largest gathering of college and university business officers in one place.
But while face-time is most definitely a plus for us, the true value of this conference is in giving our customers the opportunity to discuss best practices in higher education budgeting and planning, particularly in a market experiencing growing budget pressure and financial scrutiny.
Assessing Fiscal Fitness
A recent survey, conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed, indicates that 63 percent of college and university business officers believe higher education is in a financial crisis. Ironically, however, the majority of those surveyed are also confident in the viability of their own institutions, stating that they see them as financially sustainable over the next five years. But how fiscally fit are they?
Forbes Magazine recently graded nearly 900 four-year, private, not-for-profit colleges on their fiscal fitness, and advises that prospective students and their parents pay close attention to this metric when making the all-important college decision. Forbes warns that “…struggling schools often charge high tuitions, and then quietly offer steep discounts to entice students and their parents. Some of these schools, often with B grades on our list, offer excellent values for prospective students. Others, that are more desperate, tend to cut back on things a student might care about like facilities and maintenance, professors and other instruction-related expenses.”
Higher Education Budgeting and Planning Tools Earn High Marks
So how are today’s high-performing colleges and universities responding to these pressures without sacrificing fiscal fitness? Cloud corporate performance management (CPM) software is giving many the edge they need to sustain their organizations by reducing the complexity of data gathering, enabling participation in the higher education budgeting and planning process by non-power users. It also gives institutions the ability to quickly gain insights into their future through multiple scenario planning.
College of the Holy Cross, which received an A+ rating in financial fitness from Forbes, has implemented Adaptive Insights CPM software for planning and budgeting. According to Elizabeth Dionne, director of finance, the software has enabled the finance team to engage in operational and strategic decision-making that simply wasn’t possible before.
Accelerating Financial Processes Improves Efficiency
“The tools have significantly reduced the time we spend on strategic tasks like scenario planning,” says Dionne. “In a matter of minutes, we can analyze how large capital projects or assumption changes impact cash flows and operating margin—tasks that would have previously taken multiple days to fully perform can now be accomplished in only minutes.”
College of the Holy Cross is but one of many customers we had the honor of engaging with at the NACUBO annual meeting, alongside partners and co-exhibitors Armanino LLP and Carlson Management Consulting. These partners have a deep understanding of the pain points faced by finance leaders at colleges and universities and have been instrumental in helping them develop budgets and plans to ensure long-term success.