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Nietzel and Ambrose Advise Leaders to Focus on the Bottom Line

Chuck Ambrose

by Mary Harrison

Michael T. Nietzel and Charles M. Ambrose (MIHE EdD, 1989) provided an overview of their new book entitled Colleges on the Brink: The Case for Financial Exigency, in Inside Higher Ed.

Nietzel and Ambrose write that the higher education sector is navigating terrain made more difficult by "a prolonged stretch of sinking enrollments, a global pandemic, uncertainties in state funding, a public increasingly skeptical of their value and their own tendencies to overbuild and overspend have left hundreds of colleges facing unsustainable futures." The authors emphasize the need for colleges and universities to rethink and adjust their spending habits to avoid debt.

As a possible solution, they suggest invoking "financial exigency, an acknowledgement that the financial problems are so severe that overall academic integrity is fundamentally compromised," which typically includes the difficult steps to eliminate degree programs and terminate faculty contracts.

Nietzel and Ambrose state, "As painful as financial exigency can be, it’s survivable when done in the right manner, and it offers the most severely stressed colleges a way back from the brink as they become leaner and more fiscally stable, ready to provide the education that students and society need.

Ambrose, who as a former university president and chancellor, led Henderson State University through a period of financial exigency advised, "University presidents must be alert to cultural controversies, but what they most need to do is keep their eyes trained on the bottom line, helping their colleges and universities travel the rocky financial road that lies ahead. That’s the biggest leadership test facing most college presidents today."

Read the full Inside Higher Ed opinion piece.

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