Academic Affairs Budget Planning FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the Spring 2021 Academic Affairs Budget Planning Process.

Why are we making reductions even though our enrollments are strong, especially compared to other institutions in the system? How much do we need to reduce as a University?

Despite our relatively stable enrollments, our campus is facing a total budget shortfall of $4.5-5.5M.  This amount includes (1) our campus’s $3M structural deficit during the current biennium and (2) a projected deficit, which is currently estimated at $1.5-2.5M, resulting largely from the state budget forecast.  At this time, we have generated $2.8M in savings through BESIs, other retirements, and restructuring.  An additional $1.7-$2.7M in savings must be achieved to balance the budget. 

Which of the areas on the Data Dashboard will administration use the most in their decision-making process?

The dashboard itself is a diagnostic tool, and the data displayed within it offer a limited academic and financial snapshot of a program/department.  Budget decisions will be holistic—based on a wide variety of factors that include, but are not limited to, the data displayed on the dashboard. While no official weights are given to the individual metric, certainly enrollment trends, financial strength and contribution to the university’s mission will be highly valued indicators.  Moreover, different areas of the dashboard provide greater insight depending on the mission of the program/department and the ways in which it best contributes to the University.

How are the new set of data aligned with what we worked on for the strategic budget planning process as a University?

The strategic budget planning process serves as a foundation for this work, and familiar metrics such as department credit hours, enrollments, and majors are common to both reports.  The data dashboard expands the analysis to include financial aspects of degree programs, as opposed to just those of departments, and includes additional ratios and data on contributions to university goals.  Academic Affairs collaborates with the Division of Student Success, Analytics, and Integrated Planning in this project.

How about community engagement that serves the region or co-curricular opportunities that a department/program offers and that has helped retain students on campus indirectly? Where are they considered?

The dashboard data is focused on academic factors.  As such, co-curricular opportunities are not a feature of the dashboard.  Budget decisions will be based on a wide variety of factors, including, but not limited to, the data displayed on the dashboard.  Departments will also be given an opportunity in the consultation of the draft plan to provide additional context, such as co-curricular activities.

I don’t see certificates as a data point in the Data Dashboard. Are they being taken into consideration?

Yes. Certificates are included in the counts of program declarations and awards shown on the Department Data Summary and Program Data Summary pages.  As for degrees, data on individual certificate programs can be found on the Program Data Summary page by selecting the program name from the dropdown menu.

I don’t see concurrent enrollment or PSEO included on the Data Dashboard. Are they being considered?

Yes. The contribution of Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) credits is considered in the net income values shown on the Department Data Summary and Program Data Summary pages. We believe we have also captured the contributions from high school concurrent enrollment (HSCE) in the net income as well, but are currently vetting those accounts. HSCE credits are not considered in the other report metrics while PSEO credits are included.

Are there other considerations than profitability/financial viability that will be considered in decision-making process? How are programs that are strong here, even strongest in the system, looked at even though they may not be the most profitable? 

Yes, decisions will be based on a wide variety of factors other than profitability/financial viability. 

Furthermore, the Faculty Association encourages a broader examination of program characteristics as consideration of budget reductions and reinvestments.  In particular:

  • Is the program unique or novel in the state or region?
  • Does the program have significant community engagement? 
  • How does this program impact PSEO and concurrent enrollment? 
  • What is this program’s impact on the ability of the people of Minnesota to improve their lives and living conditions?
  • How does the program align with our University's mission and goals, especially diversity, equity, and inclusion and global.

How are accreditation rules taken into consideration?

An overall picture of the resources necessary for a program to meet accreditation standards will be constructed from the multiple perspectives, data sets, and contexts considered during this process.

How does department/program overhead factor into the discussion?

We recognize that a portion of a student’s tuition is dedicated to supports outside the classroom, and that such supports are necessary to the functioning of a department, college, academic affairs division and university. To account for the support at these levels, we distribute overhead proportionally based on the number of courses offered weighted by instructional load hours (in the case of our department financial indicator) or based on the number of program declarations (in our program financial indicator).

Our department is service-oriented, will we be penalized for that?

No. The important service work of a department is recognized throughout the dashboard and in the analysis.  A department’s support of diverse and underrepresented populations, as well as the extent of its service course offerings, is considered.  Additionally, the financial metrics are designed to provide indicators that recognize that different departments contribute to the university’s mission in different ways.

Credit hours and number of majors show limited information, though trends in those data, along with measures of the resources and staffing used to achieve them, will provide a context for their interpretation.

How do we account for all the work that goes on that doesn't go into FWM? 

We are seeking input from departments and deans to provide context and qualitative analysis on department workload. The provided information will be supplemented with data such as advisee to faculty ratios, accreditation standards, and other factors.

Graduate and doctoral tuition is more expensive than undergrad, has that been taken into consideration? 

Yes.  Cluster analysis techniques allow for the consideration of multiple factors that differentiate undergraduate and graduate programs, including tuition rates.  Program data will be contextualized prior to interpretation.

Lab courses require a lot of instructors. Will they count against our program’s financial health?

Not necessarily. Instructional costs for all courses and associated lab, discussion, studio or other supports are accounted for, including the assignment of faculty time, teaching assistants and adjuncts.  Many such costs are offset by other efficiencies within the lecture portion of the course or within department and do not necessarily have a large negative impact on the program metrics.

Where can I address my questions and provide feedback?

You can email your questions and feedback to academicsbudget@mnsu.edu.