Book by Lucie Lapovsky & Donna Klinger
Review by Edward L. Vaughn
Dean, College for Excellence
Alcorn State University

Lapovsky and Klinger’s Strategic Financial Challenges for Higher Education provides a thought-provoking treatise of broad implications for paradigm change within higher education. Long insulated from marketplace pressures, higher education is now expected to systematically demonstrate quality, efficiency, and accountability.

The authors first translate traditional definitions of quality, efficiency, and accountability into terms that fit the unique complexities of higher education. This is followed by discussion of the assessment of student learning and institutional productivity. A wide variety of indices from full time equivalency (FTE) students taught to retention and graduation rates are included. The reader is able to see the relationship of various institutional outcomes, particularly student learning outcomes, to budget allocation decisions. The institutional outcomes will help the public judge quality.

Authors within Strategic Financial Challenges suggest ways to approach maximizing resources in support of academic programming. Cost containment is a part of that process. Strategic planning plays a major role in this process. Institutional outcomes are viewed along with financial data to help guide decision-making. Changes for improvement occur at all levels in higher education: institutional, system-wide, and state-wide. Typical measures of improvement include cost reduction, process improvement, retention, and student success. Authors within On Becoming a Productive University offer more detail on cost reduction by suggesting improvements that can be implemented by faculty.

Lapovsky and Klinger challenge the reader to consider how changes in the higher education landscape will lead to decisions that differ from those of the past. In particular how revenue streams should be viewed differently and how this new perspective leads to different resource allocation decisions in response to emerging conditions. Financial aid policy, net tuition revenue, and endowment policy are three significant revenue streams that have major implications for quality and efficiency. In a similar manner, new approaches to reducing costs are equally important in improving quality. Several authors within Advancing Campus Efficiencies go a step further by suggesting how cost savings can be achieved through consortial relationships. 

The changing competitive landscape for traditional higher education presents another major challenge. For-profit colleges as well as globalization have produced significant changes in the delivery of higher education programs. These new models and the markets that they serve will continue to prompt changes by traditional higher education.  

This book does not directly address the day-to-day concerns of academic advisors. However it gives a broad overview of the higher education landscape that is useful to academic advisors. It provides a framework that should enable advisors to understand the importance of student success as an institutional outcome. It simultaneously provides advisors with an appreciation of the variables driving institutional decisions. 

All higher education professionals should find the book useful because it identifies trends that will increasingly affect higher education and suggests new ways of thinking that can assist colleges and universities in the adjustment to the new paradigm. It emphasizes combining a wide variety of institutional assessment data with fiscal data for improvement. In short, it shows how successful institutions define quality, increase efficiency, and act accountably.  


Groccia, James E. & Miller, Judith E. (Eds.).(2005).  On Becoming a Productive University: Strategies for Reducing Costs and Increasing Quality in Higher Education. Bolton, MA: Anker.

Johnstone, Sally M, & WCET Associates.  (2007). Advancing Campus Efficiencies: A Companion for Campus Leaders in the Digital Era. Bolton, MA.: Anker.

Strategic Financial Challenges for Higher Education: How to Achieve Quality, Accountability and Innovation. (2008). Book by Lucie Lapovsky & Donna Klinger (Eds.). Review by Edward L. Vaughn. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 152 pp., $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-470-30408-2
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