Colleges on the Brink is about the financial crises many colleges are facing in the post-pandemic era and how they can be resolved. The tools described require changing how colleges spend money while still maintaining core academic values. Ambrose and Nietzel discuss the conditions involving financial exigency and other major budget overhauls, and they outline how to maximize the likelihood institutions can regain financial health. The challenge these colleges face is to come back from the brink and become leaner, financially stable institutions, ready to provide the education students need.
Charles M. Ambrose is senior consultant for higher education strategy with Husch Blackwell. He’s served as a university president, chancellor and CEO at Pfeiffer University, University of Central Missouri, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, and Henderson State University. He’s held senior positions at Carson-Newman College, Western Carolina University, and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. He also serves on Furman University’s Board of Trustees.
Michael Nietzel is the former president of Missouri State University. Prior to that, he was Dean of the Graduate School and Provost at the University of Kentucky. After retirement from Missouri State, Nietzel served as senior policy advisor to Missouri Governor Jay Nixon and was later Deputy Director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. Since 2019, he’s been a Senior Contributor to Forbes online, writing on higher education.
This is the right book at the right time to provide a planning guide for academic leaders at colleges facing financial uncertainty. Nietzel and Ambrose combine experience as university presidents with a clear logic to considering sound data and values to make good decisions about mission and resources in the post-covid college era. Their engaging writing style and institutional analyses create a gyroscope for colleges whose presidents and professionals are navigating the adversities colleges face in the 21stcentury.
American colleges and universities face a veritable tsunami of challenges when it comes to their near-term and long-term success. But two of the nation’s most foresighted higher education leaders offer hope and a plan, providing strategic, practical advice for how to navigate these choppy waters. Colleges on the Brink should be required reading for those taking on the important task of making needed structural changes to allow institutions to thrive in the future and better serve today’s students.
As college leaders look to the post-pandemic future, they are confronting a confluence of daunting economic, political, and demographic changes that post an existential threat to the future of many campuses. Mike Nietzel and Chuck Ambrose-two college presidents with decades of diverse experiences in higher education-provide a clear-eyed, timely, and well-researched assessment of the challenges ahead, with a bold roadmap to financial sustainability through restructuring and reform. Colleges on the Brink is sure to generate discussion on the future of higher education as campus leaders navigate the turbulent 2020s. It should be required reading for college executives and those ascending to college leadership roles in the years ahead.
Whether leaders find themselves at a relatively well resourced institution or one that has always struggled, this book is illuminating in its approach to understanding what has happened, what is happening, and what will likely happen across American higher education without bold vision and action. Ambrose and Nietzel, with plenty of experience behind them, provide perspective and foundation to encourage leaders to take the necessary steps to steer their institutions through the troubled times ahead. Senior leadership teams, whether they are serving public or private institutions, would be well advised to read this book before the organization experiences the likely challenges of the next ten years.
Financial exigency is one of the scariest terms in the academic vocabulary. It is also the timely and important subject of this book by Chuck Ambrose and Mike Nietzel. Drawing from their own first-hand experience and extensive research, Colleges on the Brink offers a comprehensive overview as well as detailed guidance on the origins, processes and potentially positive outcomes of declaring financial exigency at a college in financial trouble. Colleges on the Brink is a must read for trustees, administrators, faculty and students of higher education who need to be better informed on the option of declaring exigency in order to save their challenged institutions.
2/5/24, Inside Higher Ed: Ambrose and Nietzell penned an opinion piece about the broken budgets of colleges.