As colleges and universities struggle with the economic impact of COVID-19, we are reaching out to Registry members who are serving as interim CFOs around the country for their insight.
We recently posed three questions to Buster Neel, Interim CFO at University of Southern Maine-Portland.
1. What is the single most important piece of advice that you would offer to a new Interim CFO about developing a budget in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis?
Neel: While there is an incredible amount of uncertainty, not the least of which is budgetary in nature, we still need to find creative ways to continue funding investments in the future of the institution. While immediate shortfalls are inevitable for many institutions, we must look beyond the immediate crisis and consider the mission of each institution and the role that CFO's play, even in interim roles.
2. Thinking in the short term, what is the most serious challenge financially posed by the pandemic for your, and other, campuses?
Neel: The uncertainty of enrollments and, for public institutions, the level of state support in the coming year. Federal funding has helped address additional immediate cost and/or lost revenue, but tuition/fee revenue and state appropriations are something of an unknown.
3. How will this pandemic change the way CFOs and Presidents lead their campuses, particularly related to financial planning and management?
Neel: For any institution that has failed to develop reserve funds, the current situation should reinforce the need for a "rainy day fund." Contingencies and other reserves should be a part of any budget development and should be funded as any other ongoing expense, at whatever level is appropriate and achievable.