July 8, 2010

What's different this year: The deans talk about changes in their budgets

by Anne Krapfl

Iowa State's new fiscal year began last week. While most of us understand that the university is a leaner, lighter place following three years of reduced state funding, we might not know how that translates, exactly. Inside talked with the deans of the seven colleges and the library to find out some of the bigger ways their units are becoming smaller, by necessity.

The largest loss is in people. As reported last week in Inside, since spring 2009, nearly 300 employees have left the university via a retirement incentive program, and most of those positions were or will be eliminated. Position eliminations among the merit and professional and scientific ranks are possible as units work through reorganization plans.

The current budget model gives units flexibility to implement significant changes across two to three years as compared with the "get it done by June 30" rigidity of the former budget system. Bridge funding -- temporary dollars that buy units time to work through change -- becomes a key variable in multiyear planning, and nearly all the deans talked about the importance of bridge funds to their budget plans. As announced June 18, about $6.2 million in bridge funding will be distributed to the colleges and library this year and another $3.7 million during the following three years.

Following are some of the significant changes the deans shared about their colleges and the library.

Agriculture and Life Sciences

FY11 reductions: $3,317,570, FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $1,741,315

  • The college used a performance metric to evaluate its departments and look for greater efficiencies. The ability to generate tuition or external revenues was critical, said dean Wendy Wintersteen. Two pairs of departments, agricultural education and studies and horticulture; and entomology and natural resource ecology and management, currently are studying ways to combine and share staff. Wintersteen said the sociology department (co-administered with the LAS college) is an important discipline but one the colleges no longer can afford at its current size (31 faculty). The department will work out the specifics of narrowing its focus over the next four years within these parameters: provide a broad-based curriculum for the university; focus research and extension/outreach on issues important to the state, particularly in rural sociology; and reduce the department budget by 40 percent.
  • The college reduced its support for graduate assistantships from $3 million to $1.2 million and changed its policy to support assistantships that focus on teaching, interdisciplinary programs and key research facilities. The difference, especially for research-focused assistantships, will have to come from external grants and contracts or gifts, Wintersteen said. Bridge funds will cover affected graduate students until they finish their degrees.
    "It's a cultural shift for us. Our faculty will be asked to generate funding to support graduate students," she said.
  • Retirements, early retirement incentives and unfilled positions will continue to reduce the number of support staff and faculty. For example, seven vacant faculty positions were eliminated. Wintersteen said the college is fortunate to have the support of agricultural groups and other stakeholders in Iowa. Some of these groups are providing bridge funds for filling high-priority faculty positions. Central bridge funds also will fill this need.
  • The college will implement a $100 fee for about 50 courses (about 20 percent of all college offerings) that use special facilities such as greenhouses or farms. This will create nearly $400,000 in new revenue. The user fee charged to faculty and staff scientists with research projects at one of the research/demonstration farms increased 25 percent.


FY11 reduction: $982,642; FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $540,000

  • Previously approved academic program changes in the college will free up about five FTE faculty positions this year. The college is eliminating the Saturday part-time MBA program (elective courses offered on Saturday will wrap up spring semester 2011). Curriculum changes to the full-time MBA program that take effect this fall will make the program more efficient to offer. Changes include expanding the number of required courses, which reduces the demand for elective courses, and reducing the program's areas of specialization from eight to five. And, in February, the state Board of Regents approved the college's request to merge two related B.S. degree programs into one (supply chain management).
  • The college reduced its funding for master's-level graduate assistants by $86,000 (funding for about eight positions).
  • The college is in year two of a three-year differential tuition plan that adds $250, $500 and $750 per semester, respectively, to the tuition of Business juniors and seniors. These funds, with internal reallocations, will be used for faculty positions to reduce class sizes, primarily in upper division courses. Associate dean Michael Crum said bridge funds will help accelerate the college's efforts to reduce class sizes.


FY11 reduction: $837,554; FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $1,208,280

  • The college is beginning a multiyear strategic review and reorganization in which it expects to add new degree programs, with an emphasis on professional master's programs, that may account for 200 to 300 additional students. Proposed new degrees include a bachelor's in digital media and master's programs in industrial design and urban design.
    "We refuse to do the same things on a smaller scale," said dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez. "So, instead of decreasing our operation, we opted to find alternative means to increase our resources and tackle the big design challenges of this century."
  • Bridge funds will be used in FY11 to retain about 17 FTE lecturer positions and as incentives to address the four goals in the college's reorganization: curricular innovation, new degree programs, increased teaching efficiencies and more research and partnerships with industry. For example, Rico-Gutierrez said curricular changes will identify ways the design disciplines can work together to offer course sequences, eliminate redundancy that may exist among departments and provide greater depth of study.
  • Academic advisers and support services staff will work in consolidated units that serve all disciplines. This eliminated four staff positions across the college.
  • The college eliminated its three chair positions (for four departments) in favor of six program-level administrators. This is intended as a one-year arrangement, pending a new administrative and academic structure.
  • The college will keep its space in the Armory so it has room to grow.


FY11 reduction: $2,307,425; No FY11 central bridge funds requested

  • Twenty-two staff positions were eliminated in the college's non-academic service offices. The cuts affected all six offices -- IT support, communications, academic and student affairs, alumni and corporate relations, graduate/research programs, and distance education -- though to varying degrees. Dean Jonathan Wickert said priorities have been set, collaboration -- within the college and with others on campus -- will be key and most services still will be available. For example, a smaller communications team will focus on college relations and no longer offer publication and website services to other units on a fee basis. "We will have less duplication and less 'silo-ing,'" Wickert noted. As with the three positions subsequently created in communications, others will be created in other areas as the reorganizations progress, he said.
  • Wickert said a value decision was made to reverse some of the budget harm done to the college's eight academic departments in the last two years. Smaller budgets resulted in fewer lecturers and graduate assistants and larger class sizes. Budgets of the college's academic departments are at an all-time high for FY11 and actually increased by a collective $3.8 million over last year, due to projected enrollment increases and central reallocations, including a decision to allocate a portion of the college's differential tuition to departments. (Following four years of differential tuition increases that concluded with the 2009-10 academic year, juniors and seniors in the College of Engineering now pay about $1,900 more in tuition.) Wickert said there will be at least a dozen faculty searches in the college this year and some laboratories will be upgraded.
  • Course fees of $25 or less were eliminated (this affects 22 courses).
  • Three college programs were eliminated this spring: faculty and staff portfolio system, PERUSE (Providing Experiences in Research for Undergraduate Students) -- although student research will continue, and the Engineering Policy and Leadership Institute (its core component, Engineering leadership program, will continue).

Human Sciences

FY11 reduction: $1,561,285; FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $255,820

  • A transition committee should make a decision during FY11 on combining the departments of curriculum and instruction and educational leadership and policy studies, with the possibility of creating a School of Education within the college. Dean Pamela White said a school would involve input from additional programs, such as teacher education, early childhood education, English and physics. Much more discussion will occur, she said.
  • Among faculty positions vacated in the college during FY10 due to retirements and resignations, approximately 10 were not filled. Some positions will be eliminated and some could be filled or redesigned in the next few years, based on needs identified by department chairs.
  • The college eliminated 3.5 staff positions in the central administration.
  • In response to the university's interest in razing it, the college will vacate the Andrews-Richards House on Beach Road this year. A new space must be found for the current tenant, a child welfare project funded by the state Department of Human Services.
  • About 90 percent of state funding for RISE (Research Institute for Studies in Education) has been eliminated, making the institute nearly self-funded. State funds were about 20 percent of the RISE budget.
  • Bridge funding will cover several staff salaries in FY11 and reductions in state support for several projects led by ISU faculty in the statewide Iowa Math and Science Education Partnership.
  • White said college leaders are studying first-time course fees for courses that depend on unique -- and expensive -- facilities, such as a child laboratory school or an exercise lab.

Liberal Arts and Sciences

FY11 reduction: $4,737,922; FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $1,063,880

  • This fall, a college task force will look at a handful of recommendations made this spring to merge departments or create new programs and departments that are interdisciplinary. Ultimately, fewer graduate and undergraduate degree programs will be offered.
    "Over the next 18 to 24 months, changes will occur. By December, I think we'll have a better feel for what the college will look like," dean Michael Whiteford said.
  • In the last year, the college lost 34 tenure-track faculty to retirement, resignation or death. There have been four new hires. Faculty are teaching larger class sections and some faculty are teaching more courses to meet the student demand. Bridge funds will be used to make temporary hires as well.
    "Every student comes through this college," Whiteford said. "Between 55 and 60 percent of the university's student credit hours are taught here, and we don't really have the option of saying 'The inn is full.'
    "At the same time, those student credit hours and the resource management model help us get the job done."
  • Departments are looking at consolidating services such as accounting or IT support in "business centers." These will be created over several years, eliminating staff positions.
  • New course fees, primarily for science courses with labs, will generate more than $730,000. With the course fees previously in place, the college should generate about $1.1 million this year.
  • The college's summer school incentive formula, piloted last summer, uses student credit hours generated and the instructor's salary to arrive at a break-even calculation. The college returned nearly $1 million in summer school "profits" to departments last summer, and is using the same practice this summer.
  • The college co-administers the sociology department (see planned changes in Agriculture and Life Sciences).

Veterinary Medicine

FY11 reductions: $2,005,625, FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $950,150

  • The college will eliminate seven tenure-track faculty and 10 staff positions that will be vacated in FY11 and FY12 due to retirements, resignations and layoffs. Funding for some staff positions will be shifted to research and service funds.
  • Reorganizations have created efficiencies, including eliminating an associate dean post and restructuring the food animal program and the veterinary medical center.
  • Dean John Thomson said that about one-third of the college's budget is wrapped up in the veterinary medical center and diagnostic laboratory, which are directly impacted by the economy. Noting that the managers of the facilities "always are very entrepreneurial," he said the college will continue to modify the services and tests it offers to meet changing needs. For example, new revenue streams in the medical center are ambulatory service for food animals and a neurology unit.
  • 2010-11 is the second year that fourth-year DVM students pay an additional $7,500 in tuition for what essentially is a 12-month academic year with lots of clinical work. Thomson said he's using additional tuition, including new tuition from the college's cooperative program with the University of Nebraska, to make strategic faculty hires.
  • Funding for IT support, faculty start-up packages and travel were reduced.
  • Planned classroom renovations, equipment purchases in the veterinary medical center and a clinical assessment program have been delayed.
  • For the last six years and in preparation for an accreditation review this winter, the college has added faculty, supported research programs, improved facilities and grown the size of the first-year classes -- all part of an aggressive plan to re-establish Iowa State in the top tier of veterinary schools. The rising costs of providing veterinary medicine education, coupled with budget reductions, have impacted that plan.
    "We've taken some big hits, but we're going to grow," Thomson said.


FY11 reduction: $974,394; FY11 central bridge funds awarded: $491,190

  • The library's budget is nearly evenly divided in two: general library and materials/access. The materials/access portion received a much-needed inflationary increase this year, but still faced a reduction. This was met primarily through cancelled journals and a 5 percent reduction in book purchases. Last fall's journal cancellation project helped with this process. It's not at the level she'd like, but dean Olivia Madison said the library continues to purchase new journal subscriptions. While the wish list stands at about $0.5 million, $100,000 will be used this year for new electronic journals.
  • The reduction to the general library budget was met primarily through personnel savings. Half of the library's non-student employees are merit employees. FY11 begins with the loss of three faculty positions through retirements and a resignation, and a reduced merit staff workforce through retirements and, if necessary, position eliminations. The process of identifying staff reductions is not complete. Madison said a workload study completed this spring identified where reduced staffing would be least damaging, and has been instrumental in making decisions about staffing levels, particularly following retirements.
  • Bridge funds will be used to purchase what Madison termed "high-need" digitized copies of journal back issues (prior to when a title became available electronically) and for transitional salary support.
  • With a 20 percent increase in building use the last four years, reducing hours of operation isn't a good option, but Madison said opportune closings of at least several days -- such as during the winter break -- could produce significant utilities savings. She anticipates additional savings over time through investments in energy conservation projects, particularly lighting.