Author Topic: UND asking departments to trim budgets  (Read 1302 times)

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Offline Sal Atticum

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UND asking departments to trim budgets
« on: May 10, 2008, 09:30:28 am »
Now, I have no problem with UND as a whole being asked to run a tight ship in order to save as much money to educate students, but I think there are inconsistencies between the model presented and the university's stated (and unstated) goals.

My comments are in red, and I have bolded some selections.

From the Grand Forks Herald:

UND asks departments to trim back academic year budgets
Joseph Marks
Grand Forks Herald - 05/10/2008

UNDís academic departments are being asked to trim back their projected budgets for the 2008-2009 academic year, university officials said, a result of a lower than hoped for student enrollment in recent years and new costs, including a slate of student scholarships and the schoolís transition to NCAA Division I athleticsThis isn't even mentioned again.

The cuts, totaling about $1.2 million across the schoolís academic affairs division, will mean less professional travel for university faculty and staff and a reduction in some of the schoolís sponsored events and extracurricular activities, university officials said.  So, in order to make UND a premier research institution, we're taking away funding for faculty (and I wonder if this includes graduate students as well) to travel for research or to present their findings.  On a separate note, they are going to reduce tuition via scholarships (see below), but once the students get here, there are going to be fewer extracurricular activities.  I wonder if Weisenstein could elaborate on which activities will not be funded--grand balls to celebrate outgoing presidents, or things the students enjoy like Night Life, things at the Loading Dock, and funding for SAC (via student government)?

By and large though, UND Provost Greg Weisenstein said, it should not affect the schoolís educational programs.

ďItís been more of a tightening process,Ē Weisenstein said. ďThat means we have to be careful about how we use dollars for travel, professional development, supplies, things like that. What weíve tried to stay away from are any kinds of reductions in personnel, particularly in our teaching faculty, whether full time or part time. We want to minimize the impact of any reallocation on the quality of what we do and the services we provide to students.

ďWeíve been effective at doing that,Ē Weisenstein continued. ďI donít think our current reallocation will have any real impact, in the short run at least, on the quality of our educational program. Over time, if we continue to experience reallocations Ö then it would have an impact on the quality of what we do. But I donít anticipate that.Ē
How do you not know?  If you are controlling the budget enough to be able to specify where the money can and cannot be used, you should know whether this affects the educational program.  Also, what are the limits of the educational program:  classes?  independent studies and research?  student organizations?

The target budget for the schoolís academic affairs division for the 2008-í09 school year is actually larger than the target for the 2007-í08 year ending now, up from $74.6 million to $77.1 million, according to figures provided by UNDís Budget Office. But that increase is more than wiped out by the average 5 percent salary hike for faculty provided by the state and similar raises for academic staff.  Hooray for finally paying the faculty a little more.  Again, this is an issue of what the goals of the university are:  do they want to keep faculty pay low in order to reduce tuition for students who can't afford college, or do they want to raise faculty pay so they can attract better researchers who may need that incentive to come live in North Dakota (no offense, but it's cold here).

Those numbers only reflect state appropriations and projected tuition revenue, not other school income, ranging from research grants to parking fees.

Weisenstein discussed implementing some budget cuts before spring semester this year in an e-mail to staff, but ultimately said they would not be necessary. While the university adjusts its budget to some extent every year, Weisenstein said, this is the largest cut in nonsalary budget items since he came to UND three years ago.

Weisenstein said he does not know whether thereís been a similar cut since the school recovered from a steep enrollment decline after the Flood of 1997.

Other university divisions, such as facilities and student services also are being asked to trim back their nonsalary budgets, said Budget Director Alice Brekke. Overall, the schoolís target budget from state money and tuition, including salaries, is set at $123.6 million, up from $119.8 million last year, she said.

The $1.2 million academic affairs budget cut will be spread across the universities colleges and schools based on a series of performance indicators, the most important of which is whether the school has been gaining or losing enrollment, Weisenstein said.  I'm actually curious what these performance indicators are.  This sounds really interesting.  Apparently, it looks like enrollment (total students) rather than number of majors is one of them.

The schoolís Colleges of Business and Public Administration and Nursing and School of Engineering, for example, have remained steady or raised enrollment in recent years, he said, and so wonít be asked to trim back significantly.

The College of Education and Human Development, and UNDís hallmark John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, on the other hand, have lost enrollment in recent years and are being asked to make more significant cuts.

On average, the schools are being asked to trim about 2 percent of their nonsalary budgets, Weisenstein said. Hardest hit will be College of Arts and Sciences, UNDís largest academic division, which has seen the most significant enrollment loss.

Because all undergraduate students take general education classes through the arts and sciences college, Weisenstein said, itís typical that a university-wide enrollment drop will be most reflected in that school.

Now, I'm all for being fair, and I can see where I would be pissed off if my department had kept up enrollment better than another, but was being asked to make cuts.  However, I think we should also consider the implications of this:  is UND a single entity, or is it a collection of departments?  This is almost parallel to a state's rights issue.  If UND is a single entity, should not cuts be made across the board to as to minimize the impact on any one department?  If UND is merely a collective, should not departments be able to choose what cuts to make out of their budgets?  There must be more to this decision than this.

Weisenstein said he plans to absorb about 10 percent of the cuts within the provostís office and, overall, about $500,000 in cuts will be borne by academic affairs administrators rather than teaching units.

2004 peak

UND enrollment peaked at slightly more than 13,000 students in 2004, but has been on a steady decline ever since, a result, university administrators have said, of raised admission standards and troubles in the airline industry since Sept. 11 which have hurt UNDís aerospace enrollment.

The school expects to rebound from its recent enrollment dip next year, Weisenstein said, in part because of a new scholarship that cuts $1,000 off tuition for roughly the upper half of entering freshmen.What do you mean, "upper half"?  Upper half of smahtness, upper half of tuition they have to pay?

Applications from potential entering freshmen are up about 6 percent over this time last year, Weisenstein said, with similar gains in applications from graduate students. But the flip side of increased enrollment with the new scholarship is less tuition revenue per student.This I can see is a problem--we ease tuition, which gives us more students, but too many students is bad (right?), especially if they don't all meet the academic standards.  So where is the balance?

Brekke said itís too early in the application season for a reliable estimate of how much money the school will have to come up with to pay for those scholarships. A separate new scholarship will pay half tuition for dependants of university employees. Brekke said the cost of that scholarship could range anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000, based on university estimates extrapolated from a similar program at North Dakota State University in Fargo.

In total, Weisenstein estimated, over half of the academic affairs cuts are due to new student scholarships, though Brekke said it is too early to say that definitively.

ďI donít want people to lose sight of that,Ē Weisenstein said. ď(Those scholarships) will directly benefit students and allow students to access the institution that may not have been able to do that without financial help. So, Iím very pleased to do that, and Iím very optimistic about what thatís going to do for our overall enrollment picture.Ē  I definitely support these scholarships--I don't want anyone to misinterpret me on that count.  I think the more scholarships, the better.  However, I think the school needs to make a choice between being a research school that uses DI athletics (which you see where never mentioned again) to lure undergraduates in to pay tuition to support research, and a school that supports the undergraduates.  No, it's not an easy choice, and it's not necessarily a dichotomy.

Reach Marks at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to
« Last Edit: May 10, 2008, 09:32:03 am by Sal Atticum »


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