Higher education finance is complex, and a grasp of it by governing boards and academic leaders is enormously important if colleges and universities are to effectively pursue their missions. The notions of achieving positive operating results and growing net assets are foreign to many educators, yet vitally important to the long-term health and vitality of institutions of higher education. Nonprofit private colleges and universities are often particularly vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the macro-economic conditions around them, as well as their own particular financial circumstances. Within the cohort of private, nonprofit institutions of higher education in the United States are 40 colleges and universities which identify as Lutheran.Strategic planning has long been touted as an important mechanism for achieving positive financial results. This study examined the strategic planning practices at Lutheran colleges and universities to determine whether there is a correlation between strategic planning and financial performance. A key part of the research was a survey of four administrators at 38 of the 40 accredited, four-year Lutheran colleges and universities in the United States. The four administrators surveyed were the President/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Academic Officer (CAO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and Chief Advancement Officer (CAdvO). Survey data were collected from a total of 98 administrators.Descriptive research revealed that a centrally-coordinated, institution-wide strategic planning process had been conducted at all 38 institutions since 2003, and 91 of 98 respondents reported that their institution would continue to perform institution-wide strategic planning in the future. Some form of internal and external environmental scan was part of the planning process at all 38 institutions (as reported by 96 of 98 respondents) and Budget/Finances was the topic most often cited as extremely important in the planning process.Correlation analysis revealed statistically significant relationships between some aspects of strategic planning and financial performance as measured by the U. S. Department of Education's Financial Responsibility Composite Scores. More specifically, the results revealed statistically significant relationships between financial performance and a number of financial best practices, which may or may not have been implemented at the Lutheran institutions as a result of their strategic planning processes.A secondary descriptive benefit of the study was the observance of perspectives among the four categories of administrators at each campus. The research frequently revealed statistically significant differences in perspectives among the four administrators in their perceptions of strategic planning and financial performance. College and university leadership teams may find it helpful to review these observed differences in order to gain a better understanding of the relative viewpoints and expectations of strategic planning among the individual members of their teams.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2014. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisor: Dr. Darwin D. Hendel. 1 computer file (PDF); xv, 195 pages, appendices A-B.
Ries, Thomas Karl.
Correlations between strategic planning and financial performance: a focus on Lutheran Colleges and Universities.
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