Higher Education Finance and Economics

This  8-week course began April 7, 2015. The instructor for FIN/723 was Jason Bewley, Ph.D.

Course Description

This course introduces and examines the major features of the financial functions operative within various types of higher education institutions. The financial functions of various types and sizes of post-secondary institutions will be presented. Specifically, the financial functions of the following kinds of colleges and universities will be compared and contrasted: public and private, non-profit and for-profit entities; small, medium, and large entities; urban, suburban, and rural entities; and unionized and non-unionized entities. In each case, traditional, non-traditional, and emerging cost centers. Strategic financial planning and global market influences, in the context of higher education institutions will be addressed. Traditional, new, and emerging administrative practices being utilized by financial mangers to control the economic dynamics engendered by various combinations of the above variables will be discussed.

Course Competencies

  • Articulate the interrelationships among social forces, policy, politics, costs, and investments in individuals and society in higher education.
  • Evaluate the influences of global market forces, global funding of higher education, and comparative funding models in developed and developing nations on higher eduction policy.
  • Relate basic budget philosophies, approaches, processes, allocations, and accountability to institutional strategic planning.
  • Analyze the roles and functions of the office of budget and management and the responsibilities of the chief financial officer.
  • Describe the contributions and ramifications of philanthropy, special interest groups, and private enterprise in financing higher education.
  • Synthesize complex issues of higher education funding, including a synopsis of ethnical issues and a description of emerging higher education finance policy issues.

The first two weeks of most doctoral programs are devoted to reading. After that, each week has a topic and the assignments reflect the topic as well as relate to parts of the reading. The reading list for this course is listed at the bottom under references. Note that in addition to the required texts, there were a number of journal articles that were also required reading for each week.

  1. Reading Week
  2. Reading Week
  3. Financial Aspects of Higher Education
  4. Global Considerations in Higher Education Finance and Economics
  5. Campus Financial Management
  6. Campus Budget Processes
  7. Strategic Financial Planning
  8. Emerging Financial Policy Issues


There were a number of assignments that required time and effort. However, I am just focusing on the papers. They were as follows:

  • Week 3: In week 3 we were asked to prepare for an interview with a Chief Financial Officer (CFO). We could make arrangements on our own or view a recorded interview with the UOPX CFO. I opted for the latter. To prepare we were asked to research job postings for CFOs in higher education institutions. Then in at least 350 words, summarize the roles and responsibilities indicated in the job postings being sure to include educational qualifications required, years of work experience required, and specific roles, responsibilities, and functions of the position. Then we were to generate three original questions for the interview. This was worth 5 points. I earned 5/5.Also in week 3 we were to select a social, economic, or political debate related to the financial aspects of higher eduction and write a 1,050- to 1,400-word position paper with an argument supported by our readings and research. The paper was to explain the debate issue and its importance in Higher Education finance. It should identify strengths and weaknesses of each side of the debate and then select a position and defend it using research, readings, or other relevant sources. I wrote on fixed versus open admission policies. I took the position of limited admission. The paper was worth 10 points. I earned 9.2/10.
  • Week 4: In week 4 we were to complete a table on Higher Education Financing Comparisons. Then write a 1,400- to 1,700-word paper comparing higher education financing in the United States to the two other countries researched for the matrix. The paper was to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each country’s system. We were to propose an improved funding system to address the weaknesses of each country’s system and rationalize the proposed systems. I compared the United States, Canada, and Australia. This assignment was worth 13 points. I earned 10.3/13.
  • Week 5: In week 5 we were asked to watch the CFO Interview video and then write 1,050- to 1,400-word summary and reflection of the interview. The paper was to include a description of the main roles and responsibilities of the interviewee. Then identify the organizational structure of the interviewee’s institution and the departments and positions with which the interviewee works most closely in his or her role. Then explain the main sources of funding for the interviewee’s institution, such as tuition and fees, state support, federal support, and ancillary sources of funding and describe any restrictions on funding at the institution. We had to outline the budget process at the interviewee’s institution and identify the processes used for accountability and the penalties for budget mismanagement. Finally there was a reflection on our understanding of higher education financing operations prior to the interview and what our understanding of higher education financing operations were after the interview. Provide suggestions we might offer the CFO to improve the financing and budgeting process. As I said earlier, my interview was with the UOPX CFO. This paper was worth 10 points. I earned 8.7/10.
  • Week 6: In week 6 we were to prepare a 20- to 35-slide PowerPoint presentation that addressed the following:
    • Institutional mission
    • Types of budgets employed
    • budget process
    • Factors that influence budgeting
    • Contextual factors that influence budgeting
    • Tools used in the budget process
    • Critique of the budget process
    • Effect of economic changes on budgeting
    • Analysis of the campus’ overall annual budget process

I wrote about University of Phoenix. The paper was worth 10 points. I  earned 8.5/10

  • Week 7: In week 7 we were asked to assume the role of CFO and determine 10 to 15 critical components of a strategic financial plan for your institution. then develop an outline of an optimal strategic financial plan for the institution using the components determined to be critical. Include and prioritize components of the strategic financial plan. Be sure to justify the selected critical components and discuss how each component aligns with the institution’s mission and goals. Answer the question of what challenges could emerge as the plan continues to develop and as CFO, how will these challenges be addressed. Again, I assumed the role of CFO for UOPX. The paper was worth 10 points. I earned 8.9/10 on this paper.
  • Week 8: In week 8 we were asked to select an emerging policy issue related to higher education finance and then write a 2,100- to 2,450-word paper analyzing the selected policy issue and propose a solution and rationale using theories and concepts from the course readings, discussions, and research. The paper was to include a description of the policy issue and an analysis of the policy issue that addresses the following:
    • The importance of the policy issue
    • The problems created in higher eduction financing as a result of the issue
    • How the issue affects stakeholders
    • Recommendation(s) for a solution to the policy issue including:
      • The parties responsible for implementing the recommendation(s)
      • The steps needed for a positive outcome
      • Any new policies needed or policy issues that may result from your recommendation(S)
      • A rationale supporting your recommendation(s) as the best solution to the issue.

I wrote about Student Loan Debt. The paper was worth 20 points. I earned 17.8/20.


This was a challenging course for me. I have very little interest in ever being a CFO. They have way too much responsibility. The instructor was the same one from the first class, EDU/711. I earned my one and only B in that class and feared I might do the same for this class. Twice I submitted a paper late. I struggled to fully understand the concepts and theories but felt much more confident about higher education finance by week 8.


The biggest success is I completed the course and learned more about higher education finance and the job of a CFO. Additionally, I have confirmed that I do not aspire to be a CFO for any institution–higher education or otherwise.

I successfully completed the course with 90.5 out of 100 points. I earned an A- and 3 credits. So I have now completed 31 units and have 34 more to go.

Required Reading

Barr, M. J. & McClellan, G. S. (2011). Budgets and financial management in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Brimley, V. R., Verstegen, D. A., & Garfield, R. R. (2012). Financing education in a climate of change (11th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson.

Garner, C. W. (2004). Education finance for school leaders: Strategic planning and administration. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Guthrie, J. W., Springer, M. G., Rolle, R. A., & Houck, E. A. (2007). Modern education finance and policy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Kezar, A. J., Chambers, T. C., & Burkhardt, J. C. (2005). Higher education for the public good: Emerging voices from a national movement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lapovsky, L. & McKeown-Moak, M. P. (1999). Roles and responsibilities of the chief financial officer. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s