I hope everyone by now has settled into the semester and it is going well. I would love to be able to deliver an extremely positive message about our budget situation; I cannot, but I can honestly deliver a slightly positive message. Some additional state funds are forthcoming but the revenues coming to us are largely restricted. Still, this is better than previous years where our state budget has been flat or cut. More about that below.
I do want to extend my profound thanks to all of our remarkable faculty and staff who continue to work so well with our students, delivering the highest quality education possible even under our challenging financial conditions. I am committed to continuing to do all that I can to develop additional revenues and resources to support you in your work.
The following is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing dialogue about issues and concerns expressed by some of our faculty of late. I am going to try to communicate more often and, I hope, more effectively with faculty and staff via UMatters and our Academic Affairs’ blog; I am also trying to get around to visit Schools and departments to talk to faculty more frequently to respond to questions and concerns directly. I cannot promise that I can answer every question in a manner that fully satisfies everyone, but I will do my best. If you have questions that you would like to see addressed please submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will make every effort to respond in a timely manner!
Some Comments about the Budget and Salaries
Budget: Our budget woes continue, and the major causes continue to be twofold. First, the state disinvestment in public higher education has caused us to lose a significant piece of our funding. For example, between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2012 alone we lost $20M in state funding, the state part of our budget dropping from $95M to $75M as you can see from the graph below. Although our 2010 appropriation included a one-time infusion of $10 million in additional funds, we remain about $10 million per year below what had been the previous norm for state funding.
The other piece to the puzzle is that the decline in state funding is forcing us to evolve into a tuition-dependent institution — thus our emphasis on strategic enrollment increases. As long as our enrollment was increasing modestly (about 3% overall per year), tuition dollars were replacing state funding and we could balance our budget without worrying unduly about cost-cutting. However, for the past two years our enrollment growth has stalled, particularly our undergraduate enrollment, resulting in our budget dropping into the red, and our having to make substantial and painful cuts this past year. The graph below shows our operating fund – state funding, tuition, and other sources of revenue – between FY 2008 and FY 2014. Please also note that these charts are REVENUE charts – our costs have continued to rise apace.
So what about this academic year (AY2014-2015)? The Governor only recently released the increase that the University of Missouri System was scheduled to receive as part of the state performance funding plan. As stated above, however, the majority of new funding this year, per President Wolfe, is restricted and applies to our strategic plan – to support, for example, expansion of our e-learning efforts; need-based as well as merit-based scholarships; and start-up packages for new faculty. If we receive additional resources over and above those assigned to the strategic plan I am hoping that we will yet be able to provide salary increases for faculty and staff. I absolutely agree with those who lament that our faculty and staff salaries have fallen behind our peers. A salary increase is by no means assured this year, but it is my top priority right now. In the meantime, we are working hard to grow enrollment to provide additional resources, particularly to academic units.
Administrative Spending & Salaries: There has been attention paid lately to administrative salaries and budget, prompted in part by a story that appeared this past Spring in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Some faculty are concerned that our budget woes are being exacerbated by funds being diverted into administration, at the expense of faculty and staff salaries and academic programs.
If you have not seen it, the AAUP here at UMKC published data in the Spring purportedly showing just that trend, with the analyses based partly on data presented by the Chancellor in a PowerPoint about the budget (http://cas.umkc.edu/aaup/ The Faculty Advocate, April 2014). I agree that we need to keep a close eye on administrative expenses and prioritize the academic mission – the heart of the University. In fact, we have done that over the time I have been here. Since 2008 we have absorbed three cuts to our state budget, and until last year we were able to protect the academic units from those cuts – we absorbed cuts in administration as long as we could.
The data, however, do not support some of the conclusions that are being drawn in the AAUP reports. For example, when examining the “academic” versus “administrative” numbers there are a couple of things that must be considered in order to fairly evaluate the data. First, the “administrative” employee category includes not only the higher level administrators people typically think of, but also employees at all salary levels, including tech support and other employees who directly support instruction, as well as a broad range of employees who people do not generally think of as “administrators”, for example, groundskeepers, maintenance workers, and administrative assistants. Second, the data demonstrate that between FY 10 and FY 13 the percentage change in total spending for the academic category went up 9.2%, whereas total spending in the administrative category only increased 5%, even though we committed almost $600,000 to reclassify and raise the salaries of our very lowest paid staff members. Finally, despite the constraints we have had in hiring, FTE academic employment increased by 4.5% while FTE administrative employment increased by only 0.4% from FY 2010 to FY 2013.
Here are the facts: Instruction at UMKC accounts for about 57% of the budget (going from 56.8% to 57% between AY 2003 and AY 20012) while Institutional Support (i.e., administrative costs) have risen from 8.1% to 8.9% of the budget in the same time period (see below). Further, the amount allocated to Instruction in this graph does not include many employees involved in academic support, such as tutors and advisors.
I think it’s fair to say that we are not doing badly in terms of keeping administrative costs under control.
A picture is being painted by some of dire academic decline. But again, here are the facts worth considering:
- We still have a student-faculty ratio of 13 to 1.
- 57 percent of our classes have fewer than 20 students, and only 10 percent of our classes have 50 or more students.
- Those are very good numbers for a public research university. For example, at Kansas State, only 41 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students, and their student-faculty ratio is 19 to 1.
In future communications I will address other issues, for example, the strategic plan (University College, the Honors College, e-learning); academic hiring and the hiring of tenured and tenure-track faculty; the new General Education program; student retention – why we keep talking about it and why faculty should care; graduate education; and other topics that you identify as important to address.
-Provost Gail Hackett
Have a question for Provost Hackett? Send it to email@example.com.