Book by Lori E. Varlotta and Barbara C. Jones
Review by Kristan M. Venegas, PhD
Rossier School of Education
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA

Student Affairs Budgeting and Financial Management in the Midst of Financial Crisis was written during a time when colleges and universities are addressing some of the toughest budget cuts to non-revenue generating areas of their institutions, including student affairs. The purpose of Varlotta and Jones’ text is to provide suggestions and examples for student affairs professionals who manage budgets during this challenging time. The book is made up of seven chapters and features perspectives from a variety of institutional types. Three of the seven chapters stood out as especially universal to individuals in the midst of budget driven change.

In Chapter One, “Becoming a leader in university budgeting,” monograph editor, Lori E.Varlotta deftly reminds Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAOs) to engage in thoughtful strategic planning processes, to understand the various aspects of one’s budget in detail, and to be sure to follow all aspects of a budget request while being inclusive of the voices of others. Of course, this advice would ring true during any budget climate. Varlotta adds to these recommendations by providing an overview of possible budget models and offering examples of how they work in practice. Her reminder to the reader about assessment cannot be understated. Perhaps one of the most important pieces of counsel in this chapter is the reminder to assess your results to justify the value and decision-making of particular budget decisions. 

“Communicating with Stakeholders” by Jonathan Eldridge and Tisa Mason, stands out as another key chapter that would useful during any budgeting process. The chapter emphasizes the importance of careful collaborations in drafting a budget that meets the needs of multiple constituents. Budget cuts are typically accompanied by significant change. This chapter highlights guiding questions for navigating change, such as “How has change been received in the past?” and “Have past changes resulted in improvements or have they been seen as ineffectual?” (p. 46).  Eldridge and Mason remind the reader that no communication can be just as damaging as no communication because unhealthy rumors can develop, and that managing informal as well as formal leadership channels is crucial. 

Ardaiolo’s chapter, “Preserving the future from the demands of the present” serves as a living example of the advice given in chapters one and four. In this part of the monograph, the reader is given a detailed account of the budget reduction process for the student affairs division at Winthrop University. The author explains his choices to immediately reduce the school’s student affairs budget and shows how these selections were made. Also included within the chapter is an explanation of the rationale and outcomes for these decisions. The reader gains a glimpse into the difficulty of making budget cuts and the possible impact of these changes on the university and the surrounding community. The chapter closes with a set of lessons and conclusions that are useful to any SSAO. 

The monograph addresses a broad audience within postsecondary education. As Varlotta, Jones, and Schuh suggest at the end of the text, there are three macro-level methods that should guide fiscal decisions making during times of crisis. There processes include: (1) using the appropriate budget strategies, (2) communicating your decisions clearly, often, and repeatedly, and (3) developing and maintaining key campus relationships. The authors suggest that the continued reliance on these core practices will help those in student affairs position themselves to best weather a storm of budget cuts. This monograph would be of interest to those who are planning and implementing student affairs related budget cuts, as well as those individuals who manage the effects of these cuts. 

Student Affairs Budgeting and Financial Management in the Midst of Financial Crisis (Spring 2010, Number 129). New Directions for Student Services. Lori E. Varlotta and Barbara C. Jones (eds.). Review by Kristan M. Venegas. San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass Publishers. 91 pages. $29.00 ISSN: 0164-7970. DOI: 10.1002/ss
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