The chief financial officer's perception of financial management response to eroding state appropriations
State fiscal support for public higher education is declining, particularly during recessionary periods. Public colleges and universities have limited channels of revenue and depend on state appropriations for current operating needs. There is an imperative now for public institutions to do more with less, be more efficient and effective in order to meet national demand. Faced with a difficult financial outlook going forward, it is important to explore the fiscal response being developed and implemented at public four-year institutions. This study investigated, through a survey response instrument, the strategies and tactics put in place to aid public four-year colleges and universities in sustaining their financial well-being while maintaining pursuit of institutional missions. A study population that included public four-year institutions that experienced at least a 5% or more reduction in state appropriations from fiscal year 2008 to 2009 was examined to determine what financial management strategies and tactics were implemented, as well as the chief financial officers perception regarding fiscal stability. The survey collected data on the implementation of financial management tactics and the relative degree of fiscal impact of each tactic. In addition, survey questions recorded perceptions of the chief financial officers on the guiding principles of selecting a financial management response and the degree to which the implemented strategy achieved fiscal stability. The results of descriptive statistics and data analyses show that increasing tuition and fees was an integral component of the financial management response to offset the loss of state appropriations. Further, institutions, regardless of enrollment size, were found to implement a variety of tactics across all strategy types to achieve relative fiscal stability. Chief financial officers indicated that they were able to implement a wide-ranging response to eroding state appropriations that generally achieved their desired level of fiscal stability. The full findings, conclusions, and recommendations are discussed in detail at the end of the study.