UND academic and support units submit their preliminary budget proposals to find savings and encourage strategic growth
It’s a painful process—but if done thoughtfully, it’s a process that will unveil opportunities.
University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy has been working closely with his Executive Council over the past months to find ways to address a challenging—and ever-changing—budget situation. Those plans are beginning to come into focus with the submission of preliminary budget proposals.
“Even though cutting 12 percent from every unit’s budget necessarily involves making unwanted choices, every effort was made to make sure these proposals were aligned with the Strategic Plan for both the University as well as the units themselves,” President Kennedy said.
A small increase in tuition was assumed in setting the 12 percent reductions. Thursday’s North Dakota Revenue Forecast revealed general fund revenues $46 million short in the two-year funding cycle that ends June 30 and $103 million less for the 2017-19 biennium that begins July 1 than what was included in the January assumptions. It remains uncertain what additional actions the Governor or legislature will propose to address these additional shortfalls. President Kennedy said that he will continue to make the case for UND and higher education throughout the session in an effort to limit any further demands for expense reductions.
President Kennedy previously announced a more than 20% reduction in the number of executive officers in his administration.
Below are brief summaries of what each unit has planned to position themselves for the future, as well as links to their full proposals. These proposals are still preliminary and are marked so as “draft” since neither legislative action nor voluntary separations or phased retirements have been finalized.
Office of the Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs
UND Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tom DiLorenzo has been collaborating with college deans to craft their initial budgets.
“I’m very pleased with the work the deans have done with their faculty, staff and students to weave strategic priorities into this exercise,” DiLorenzo said. “These are examples of the work we’ve done, but this is just the start.”
The College of Arts & Sciences (A&S) has examined its offerings in graduate education to align with the college’s own strategic plan. As the school proposed graduate teaching assistant (GTA) reductions, Dean Debbie Storrs said that in the future, “the college will direct GTAs and tuition waivers to graduate programs with high research potential, successful grant activity, and nationally and internationally recognized creative activity.”
A&S also proposes finding ways to innovate existing programs through reorganization or develop new interdisciplinary programs using current faculty expertise to “respond to student interest, demand and needs in the state.”
The College of Business and Public Administration (CoBPA) will reduce faculty in some areas as opposed to making staff reductions. CoBPA Dean Margaret Williams said, “The instruction previously provided by tenure-track faculty can be provided by lecturers and instructors. Our decision not to cut staff in student support areas (advising and the Pancratz Career Development Center) supports our strategic plan for student success. The decision to retain staff in the area of development supports the pillar of our strategic plan that focuses on new/renovated facilities for our college.”
In harmony with the UND Strategic Plan focus on expanding research activities, the College of Education and Human Development intends to maintain its Ph.D. program offerings and begin phasing out Ed.D. program support from its base funds. Dean Cindy Juntunen added that she is taking steps to reorganize the college to “support collaboration and interdisciplinary course offerings, as well as reduce duplication (and costs) in instruction. This will support our ability to focus on ‘Grand Challenges’ as well.”
DiLorenzo added that he has been encouraged by the ideas coming out of recent budget fora. He and Vice President for Research and Economic Development Grant McGimpsey are readily available to visit departments to discuss further teaching and research proposals.
DiLorenzo noted that the proposals for his support units will be published when complete.
Division of Finance & Operations
Vice President for Finance and Operations Alice Brekke said, “Proposals for budget reductions within Finance and Operations recognize the service/support nature of the functions we provide. Reductions were made in the context of emerging strategic priorities and the vision for the division.”
Across the division, staffing reductions include vacant positions, temporary salary lines, voluntary separations and reductions in force. These were made where greatest potential existed for consolidation and/or restructuring with least impact on students and others. Efforts were made to buffer reductions in public safety as well as in extraordinary repairs funding.
Phased reduction of appropriated funds that subsidize housing/dining and duplicating will continue as initiated last spring. Reallocation, reduction of overall cost and/or rate adjustments will be necessary in these areas to offset the loss of subsidy.
Finance and Operations also expects savings from taking buildings offline. Reduction in campus staffing through separations and retirements as well as consolidation of departments and sharing of services will create further potential for taking square footage offline, reducing both operating costs and existing deferred maintenance for the future.
Brekke said there is much work yet to be done to reengineer how work is done within the division and across campus (finance, HR/Payroll, admin/clerical etc.), but doing so in the months ahead will allow the University the opportunity to find ways to be more efficient and effective.
Division of Student Affairs
Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Laurie Betting said, “The student experience is essential to the work we do in the Division of Student Affairs. As such, this round of budget reductions were approached with a continued commitment to our divisional values.”
Recommendations were requested from each department director, along with feedback from their staff. The recommendations were shared with the Student Affairs Cabinet, as well as the Student Body President and Student Body Vice President, for further discussion.
The Dean of Students/Associate Vice President position will be combined with the Vice President for Student Affairs position resulting in a salary savings. Open positions will be not be filled.
Once voluntary separations are finalized, Betting anticipates the reorganization of some departments, realignment of duties and reprioritizing within each office to meet students’ needs. Student Affairs will continue to review staffing structures and identify and implement collaborative and/or shared services and programs that improve efficiency while reducing costs, and will limit operational costs while still serving students as effectively as possible.
Division of University & Public Affairs/Office of the President
The budget reduction process means considerable change to the Division of University and Public Affairs, said Peter Johnson, who serves as interim Vice President of that division.
“Several individuals within our small division will be affected through the acceptance of voluntary separations or through reduction in force,” said Johnson. He is approved for a voluntary separation with June 30 as his last day as a full-time employee. Plans are for Johnson to continue on a quarter-time basis through December to help with transitions in the communication function. The Executive Associate VP position has been eliminated.
“The changes to the Division of University & Public Affairs will allow the yet-to-be-recruited Vice President, a currently open position, to rethink and reconstruct the University’s central communication function in a way that will best serve the University and its strategic plans,” said Johnson.
That includes positioning the Television Center in a way that will allow UND’s next head of communication to determine how video will fit into UND’s institutional communication goals and plans.
Division of Research and Economic Development & School of Graduate Studies
The Division of Research and Economic Development was reorganized, partially in response to the first round of budget reductions in 2016. This reorganization sought efficiencies in workflow by acquiring a new electronic proposal and award system that will be implemented in the first quarter of 2018, and resulted in the elimination of several positions and the redefinition of other roles.
Vice President for Research and Economic Development and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies Grant McGimpsey said, “For this round of anticipated budget reductions, we have eliminated two executive positions, which, when coupled with other changes, has allowed us to invest in the initial build-out of the Institute for Unmanned and Autonomous Research. We have also been able to redirect funds to allow continued funding for faculty research across the University.”
In the School of Graduate Studies, the anticipated budget reductions have also prompted a reorganization. The graduate school will be transitioning recruiting functions to other units and will be focusing on streamlining admissions and student progress to degree processes through a new electronic student data management system to be implemented this month. Through a team of graduate faculty advocates, the school will also work to enhance the graduate student experience, both on-campus and online. The result of this reorganization will be some reduction in, and redefinition of staff positions.
The budget proposals for both units will be released after voluntary separations are finalized.
School of Medicine and Health Sciences
The Faculty Academic Council of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences will be holding a special meeting on March 23 to review the 90 percent budget plans submitted during February by each of the School’s departments and units and provide feedback and suggestions.
Athletics has been given a budget-savings target of $1.3 million and will report its plan by early April.
Protecting student experience
Student Body President Brandon Beyer has been working alongside deans and division vice presidents to make sure that reductions have as little negative impact on students as possible.
“These reductions are being done out of necessity, and the direction of the University needs to be such that it maintains its identity as the flagship higher education institution of North Dakota. That certainly can’t be done by ignoring the experiences that a student receives at UND,” Beyer said.
“We have been working with Student Government and others to make sure students have the courses and requirements they need to graduate on time,” DiLorenzo said.
As noted above, these budget proposals are preliminary. The state revenue forecast will steer budget decisions made by the State Legislature through to the end of the session, which could continue until April 28.
Another factor that may affect current proposals is the number of faculty and staff who will leave due to voluntary separation and phased retirement programs. Applicants who are approved will have an additional 45 days to decide if they want to leave the University.
Continue to follow UND Today for the latest in budget-related matters. For past stories, click on the Budget tab of the UND Today homepage.