Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Neal Hutchens


Higher education had been one of the highest funding priorities in most states, however, in recent years, governors and state legislators have focused their efforts in higher education on cutting budgets to deal with historic gaps in revenue. As a result, university administrators have been challenged to modify their institutions’ academic programs, administrative units, and student affairs operations to contain costs and increase revenue. This study examined the extent of financial challenges faced in student affairs divisions at four-year, state-supported institutions during the period between 2008 and 2012 and the strategies utilized by senior student affairs officers to manage them. A researcher-developed online survey instrument was used to collect data from senior student affairs officers at four-year, public institutions of higher education which were members of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA).

The questionnaire was designed to gather information regarding the impact of institutional financial constraints on student affairs units and the resulting student service area changes, funding shifts, and leadership engagement and knowledge in budgeting. Descriptive statistics and a thematic analysis were used to examine the data which showed that, while student affairs units had experienced decreases in institutional support during the timeframe investigated, university financial constraints did not have a significant impact on eliminating or creating student affairs services. The student affairs services most often reduced were career development, college or student unions, and dean of students. Findings also indicated counseling and psychological services, recreation and fitness programs, residence life and housing, and disability support services were most frequently increased. The most frequent shift in student affairs funding to mitigate fiscal stress was through internal reallocation followed by establishing or increasing a mandatory or user fee. Counseling and psychological services, health services, college or student unions, and recreation and fitness programs were services most frequently identified as experiencing a funding change. The results encourage senior student affairs officers to find a balance of new funding opportunities while also being effective and efficient with reductions to programs and services.