By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

By the students, for the students of Central Washington University

The Observer

New financial management at Central

BY Aaron Kunkler

Staff Reporter


Central will be starting a new system of financial management this summer, involving the redistribution of college and department funds to cover budget shortfalls. This has sparked concern from faculty about forcing colleges to compete for students.

In the past, funds raised by the university during the school year were centralized by the administration and distributed from a central fund, but profits raised during the summer went to departments.

Under the new model of Responsibility Centered Management (RCM), the deans of individual colleges will control how all funds are distributed, beginning July 1. The system will be fully phased in over the next three years.

“We’re changing the current system so it gives the deans more authority to use funds,” Marilyn Levine, VP for Academic and Student Life, said. “The whole idea of Responsibility Centered Management is to make a financially sustainable future.”

In a separate, related move, funds currently held in reserve by individual departments will be consolidated by July.

These reserves were formerly held by departments and used to fund individual projects, professional development, and travel expenses for students and faculty.

In a letter to President Gaudino’s office, the Faculty Senate and United Faculty of Central said they have concerns about the indirect consequences of the move.

The letter discussed issues with the administration not justifying the restructuring prior to making the decision, as well the fact that only the academic side of the university is being asked to restructure, leaving the administrative side alone.

“We are being asked to find ways to become more ‘profitable,’ but it appears that profitability is to support a growing administrative bureaucracy that itself generates no profits,” the letter stated.

Among the concerns of the Faculty Senate and union were the way funding will be awarded based on credit hours, potentially rewarding competition between colleges and incentivizing hiring cheaper adjunct faculty rather than tenure-track professors.

According to Katharine Whitcomb, chair elect of the Faculty Senate, the letter was written to voice concerns and send a message that the President’s office should include faculty and the union in the decision-making process.

“The letter was specifically, also, to ensure our commitment to academic integrity here at Central,” Whitcomb said.

One concern is how the RCM will affect a unionized college such as Central, which operates under a collective bargaining agreement. Since teaching will be incentivized, there are concerns about funding for faculty research and service.

“The concern could be that the RCM could impact jobs,” said Roxanne Easley, history department chair.

Easley said she was concerned about how the university would handle potential disputes between faculty and administrators over budgets and salaries.

Central is governed by three different branches: the professors’ union, the Faculty Senate and the President’s office.

According to George Drake, English department chair, the university’s decision to consolidate funds over the summer was undertaken after the state legislature looked at university funds and determined that departments had too much money tied up and under-utilized.

Drake said that while the funding from summer classes may have been static, it was all intended for future programs.

“My worry is that there will be less funding for less things, like technology and travel, but I just don’t know yet,” Drake said.

Insecurity about this decision was mirrored by Henry Williams, director of advanced programs.

“The way I look at it is, it’s administrative,” Williams said. “I want to reserve my judgment until we see how the RCM is going to impact the various departments.”

Williams said that he is also disappointed that funds are being taken from the department reserves and chairs.

Whitcomb said she hopes that the faculty will continue to have some autonomy with their funds.

Kathryn Martell, dean of the college of business, believes that the college will maintain the same level of academic quality through these changes.

“None of this will be anything that effects students,” Martell said.

Martell said the restructuring will encourage colleges to be entrepreneurial, but that her department will be “up to the challenge.” That challenge may manifest itself in many fiscal areas.

Ways in which colleges can generate more income include creating more diverse, cross-disciplinary minors such as the recent sports business minor, or the human resources management minor designed to attract sports and psychology students, respectively.

Martell said that this coming year, the college of business will have to raise $200,000 to cover their costs. The RCM is being phased in over the course of three years to allow departments to develop their own profitability models. Ultimately, the college of business must find new ways  to generate up to a million dollars per year.

“Responsibility Centered Management will have our budgets tied to the amount of credit hours we produce,” Martell said.

Colleges are awarded money based on how many students utilize their programs, as well as the number of majors and pre-majors they have. Colleges which provide prerequisite classes for students, such as mathematics or science, will receive more money than, for example, the College of Business, since there are more students overall in their programs and classes, she said.

Eighty percent of funding is driven by credit hours, with the remaining 20 percent being allocated due to the number of majors and pre-majors.

There are also concerns that this could affect the quality of education, and the “brand” of education that Central offers. This includes small class sizes, marketing to first-generation college students, and being a ‘veteran-friendly’ campus.

Grade inflation, meaning the lowering of requirements to fill seats and secure funding, could be a potential problem, though Easley said she will be dedicated to preventing that, along with the faculty.

“I personally, in the union chair and department chair, am fiercely protective of our academic quality,” Easley said. “That’s why I think people come to Central.”

Summer courses are another area that will be affected by this decision. In the past, departments were able to save most of the profits they brought in during summer. With the repossession of department funds, and the RCM’s model of distribution, that will no longer be the case.

“I don’t think that this summer quarter, this change is going to affect the course offerings,” Whitcomb said. “There might be a change perhaps in the enrollment level.”

Levine also does not believe this will have a negative impact on students.

“We have one of the best attendances in summer sessions that I’ve ever seen,” Levine said. “We hope that this will provide better control of the classes for the scheduling of the students.”

There will be many more online options for students this summer, Levine said.

More proposals, such as more course fees, may be proposed and levied at students in the future to help fill the gap between required funds and the reduction in state funding. President Gaudino estimated that gap may be as large as $6.5 million for the 2014-15 fiscal year.

Responsibility Centered Management has been in the works within the President’s office for years. While no one can predict exactly how this new model will work, Levine believes that this will be a more sustainable model for the future.

“It’s something that will work long-term,” Levine said. “It allows us to do better strategic planning.”

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