SCUP 2018 Session Recap
by Emilita Marin, Assistant Dean for Business and Finance, College of Music, University of North Texas
Session: Finance and Academics: Collaboration Creating Integrated Planning and Program Sustainability
Presenters: Stephanie Morris, Associate Vice President, Financial Affairs, Regis University | Linda Osterlund, Vice Provost, Regis University
How can academics and finance collaborate effectively on an academic budget planning process? Two presenters from Regis University shared the methods working for them. As a college financial officer, I had three main takeaways from this session.
At Regis, the University Budget Committee facilitates the budget process. This new committee sought faculty members who communicate, collaborate, and are influential and respected amongst their peers. It allows faculty to meaningfully participate in the budget process and provides a faculty voice to speak to other faculty and the Board of Trustees.
Currently, the budget method at my institution does not include a committee to determine the best use of college resources. I could employ a committee like this at the college level to get input from faculty and staff and encourage the shared governance role.
Many institutions distribute resources without considering the institution collectively. For example, at my institution, we typically use historical data—mostly expense and revenue (tuition, state appropriations, or discretionary data)—to establish base budgets and get approval via our provost and board of regents for the upcoming fiscal year.
The methodology used at Regis looks at what the funding priorities are for the entire campus and allocates resources based on highest to lowest priority. This is not radical...but it doesn’t happen as often as is needed.
Further, politics or relationships often inform resource decisions. In many institutions, some provosts or vice provosts provide resources to colleges or specific programs they feel more connected to (due to long-term friendships or working relationships). In a climate where state funding is diminishing and endowment earnings fluctuate with the markets, it is has been hard for some schools to be objective during resource decisions, and in some cases, the most prominent colleges on a campus seem to get the most funding.
Regis, on the other hand, has a faculty-led Program Sustainability Project that analyzes academic programs to determine where to place resources. Programs are eventually placed in a decision-making matrix—start, grow, sustain, or intervene.
Closing a program or collapsing colleges is always hard, but in some cases has the best outcomes for the entire institution. I have been at schools where we identified the top and low 1% programs to determine the best use of resources; however this method is fairer. The “intervene” portion of the matrix allows for those programs who may not know they have no value or no potential the chance to fix things. The presenters' use of data provides “intervene” faculty or deans a wakeup call and also the opportunity to make the hard decisions.
Using data to make tough decisions is not unheard of...but having the hard and crucial conversations about that data rarely happens. The presenters talked about using techniques from the book Crucial Conversations to have productive discussions with faculty and staff regarding resource allocation.
My experience has been that many who have become complacent or believe they are doing enough do not like being told they are not contributing to the institution as they should (or not enough compared to other programs or colleges). The presenters discussed how reactions often take one of three roles: “victim,” “villain” or “helpless.” They shared ways to respond to these reactions so the discussion is more productive.
This session gave me ideas, but I left wanting more information on how to get them started on my campus. I am new to my position and although I have many years of experience, my current institution is trying to catch up to new and existing trends. Culturally, it is trying to change but at a slow pace. My questions, which I didn’t get to ask was: