Nicole Trufant, CPA, senior vice president of Finance and Administration, recently participated in a keynote presentation on navigating the COVID-19 pandemic’s future storm at the annual meeting of the Eastern Association of College and University Business Officers (EACUBO), a volunteer-led association centered on professional development; technical expertise and creative value-added, problem-solving for higher education business officers.
The coronavirus outbreak has been fast-moving, with a growing impact on the global economy. In these uncertain times, strong leadership from the finance office is important to secure a college or university’s business today and position it well for the future.
According to the EACUBO, many institutions have strategic plans, but few campuses have financial strategic plans.
Trufant told the gathering UNE’s financial planning has been the main factor in helping the University weather the COVID-19 storm.
“We invoke strong financial discipline,” she commented. “We manage our financial resources much more like a corporate entity by taking a long-term view and we have done that for many years.”
While UNE has fared well the past few months, Trufant says there have been many challenges to face.
“We are not immune to the challenges that other institutes of higher education are facing,” she said. “We have seen increased costs related to COVID-19, but we have been able to position ourselves well to absorb some of those costs.”
Trufant suggests finding the right balance in your spending is key to getting through tough times.
“Figure out that balance so that things are affordable to students,” she explained. “We do not want to put excessive debt on their backs, but we also must make sure we have the right resources by attracting and retaining talent.”
Trufant’s discussion also focused on the future of higher education.
“With the rapidly changing conditions, how do we come out of this?” she asked. “What does higher education look like?”
She says if we come out of the pandemic the same way we went into it, we will have missed an opportunity.
“We will have missed an amazing, an extraordinary opportunity to effect change,” she stated. “This is a forced experiment, an opportunity to learn, fail, adjust accordingly, and have open conversations so that you can try new ways of learning. Artificial Intelligence and digital modalities that are coming will impact the budget model. The more we can understand where higher education is going, the more we can start planning ahead on budgets and finances to keep pace, or maybe, get a little ahead of the curve.”
The EACUBO annual meeting was originally scheduled to take place in Montreal, Canada, but was moved to a virtual format because of the pandemic. About 300 people attended this year’s event.