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Strategic Finance Initiative

Strategic finance is the alignment of resources with the institution's mission and strategic plan.

A forward-looking and efficient approach premised on goal achievement, institutional mission, and strategic planning, strategic finance is also a step toward transforming the way higher education conducts its business. Strategic finance focuses attention on monitoring and controlling costs, targeting resources toward goal achievement, rethinking how we do business, transparency, and accountability. The results include a more affordable higher education system and improved student access and success.

Strategic Finance in the News

  • Read The Chronicle of Higher Education's story about AGB's Strategic Finance initiative.
  • Listen to the The Chronicle of Higher Education's interview with Strategic Finance consultant Rick Staisloff.

Strategic Finance Workshops

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) has begun working directly with governing boards and chief executives to help them weather an increasingly difficult fiscal environment.

Facing a double whammy of budget cuts and enrollment pressures, new institutional strategies are needed to sustain quality and effectiveness. With help from Lumina Foundation for Education, AGB is able to offer "Strategic Finance" workshops for governing boards and senior administrators with key goals in mind: keeping college affordable, increasing productivity, and increasing college completion rates. The workshops will focus attention on monitoring and controlling costs for both academic programs and administrative operations; prioritizing investments in strategic opportunities; and linking budgeting, strategic planning, and academic programming. Download a brochure here.

With consultants skilled not only in finance, but in governance and leadership, we can help presidents and board chairs build capacity within the board to meet these new challenges. Governing boards have important, but different, roles to play in leading institutions. A Strategic Finance workshop can help find the "right" level of board engagement in today's difficult fiscal environment. A major outcome of the workshop is an institutional action plan for the board and president that can help differentiate roles and maximize the board's positive contributions. The action plan can also tie back to the state's agenda on student access and success, particularly for states participating in Lumina Foundation's Making Opportunity Affordable agenda.

We offer half- and full-day facilitated workshops. Grant monies will cover the consultant's fee and AGB's administrative work, costing eligible institutions only travel-related expenses. Workshops will be catered to each institution's unique challenges and rely on useful institutional, state, and national data to help inform the conversation.

In this difficult fiscal environment, strategies must be found for public higher education to continue to thrive and serve its many public purposes. We want to help.

If you have questions about the workshops or the opportunity in general please contact Patti Kunkle at or 202.776.0817.



The purpose of the Strategic Finance initiative is to help boards and presidents:

  • align mission, revenues, expenditures, and strategic plans in order to
  • increase productivity and degree attainment


The goals of the Strategic Finance initiative are:

  • a sustainable higher education system
  • improved student access and success

Workshops are always customized, beginning with a mutually agreeable set of goals for the day. Sample goals have been  to:

  • Understand how strategic finance differs from traditional financial oversight (see Higher Education Finance 101 for a quick primer about college finance)
  • Appreciate the benefits of a strategic approach to finance
  • Define and prepare to pursue a specific action plan to move to a strategic finance approach
  • Identify the top few action priorities for a data-informed action plan (including responsibilities, timelines, and metrics) through which the University will
    • 1) educate more people, not fewer;
    • 2) enhance affordability and accessibility; and,
    • 3) improve efficiency and effectiveness where possible
    • Understand the range and complexity of options available for funding strategic initiatives to achieve state goals for degree attainment
    • Identify promising funding options that merit additional research and development


As a result of our work, we want trustees and presidents to:

  • Understand and confront the reality of their institution(s) regarding
    • recent and likely future trend lines of revenues and expense
    • clarity and functionality of their strategic plans
    • focus on achieving/documenting results/outcomes (versus inputs, process)
    • need/ability to increase institutional productivity
    • strategies for integrating financial plans with strategies at the board/executive level
  • Make specific plans for next steps to address these matters at the board and executive level in the next six months and beyond to achieve a sustainable future.


The primary audiences for the Strategic Finance initiative are trustees and presidents (including system board members and CEOs) at US public and indpendent universities, especially those in Arizona, California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.  But we also work with public and private four-year institutions in any state.