The academic dean’s perception of financial management responses to eroding state appropriations
State appropriations to public higher education institutions are highly susceptible to economic downturns and changing political opinion. Over the past forty years, the overall effect of these factors was the steady erosion of this core revenue stream into public higher education. The Great Recession beginning in 2008 represents the latest in a series of economic decline events that negatively impacted public funding of higher education. Faced with little expectation that states will return to pre-recession funding levels and growing public resistance to tuition increases, public colleges and universities should implement well-informed, effective financial strategies encompassing a tailored mix of tactics to mitigate this loss. The ability of institutional leaders to craft this response to environmental decline is critical to ensuring the financial viability of their institution. Complicating this task are the competing and often conflicting interests of internal and external constituents. In developing their fiscal response, the CFO’s vision, as the architect of the institution’s financial strategy, should align with that of other institutional leaders. The purpose of this study is to gain insight into the perceptions of academic deans at public four-year institutions that experienced a greater than 5% loss in state appropriation revenue in the 2009 fiscal year. Academic deans serve vital organizational roles as leaders charged with maintaining the integrity of core academic subunits and as boundary-spanners engaging multiple constituents. Utilizing an online survey instrument, the study gathers information on the tactics and strategies implemented by the institutions and the perceptions of academic deans regarding the effectiveness of these measures in mitigating lost state appropriation revenue. These findings are compared to Tate’s (2012) study of the perceptions of CFOs at the same population for fiscal year 2009.