The financial management practices of small, private, non-profit colleges

Powell, J. R. (James R.), Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Brighton, Catherine, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia
Burbach, Harold, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Hampton, Mark C., Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Small, private, non-profit colleges in the United States are generally highly tuition dependent for the majority of their revenue. As a result, the financial management practices of these types of institutions are critical to their survival. The recent economic downturn has affected the financial condition of all institutions of higher education, but especially small private colleges. The purpose of this study was to explore the financial management practices of these types of colleges that contributed to their financial difficulties and to discover what strategies these institutions are utilizing to ameliorate these financial circumstances.

A qualitative approach was employed. Seven institutions, from three different regional accreditation areas, agreed to participate in the study. Data collection included interviews with senior level administrators at each of the participating institutions in addition to an analysis of available financial data for these colleges. Five themes concerning financial management practices emerged and included the following: 1) that communication of financial data with the college governing board and other key personnel has to be a priority, 2) the importance of enrollment management activities to effective financial management, 3) that fundraising has to be enhanced and focused to find donors who will support the college's mission, 4) that college officials should know their debt status and the potential drain this could be on the budget, and 5) the importance of measuring financial management success. Recommendations for successful financial management of these types of higher education institutions, derived from the experiences of the participating colleges, are provided.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Financial management, Small colleges, Private colleges, Non-profit colleges
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