Jul 222008
Authors: Aaron Hedge

The CSU budget for fiscal year 2008, which allocates a little over $1 million of new revenue to faculty expansion, has drawn scrutiny from faculty for placing too much emphasis on research and non-academic stretch goals, while not shoring up the academic guts of the university sufficiently.

One professor said that in the tight fiscal environment that has plagued the Colorado higher education system for nearly a decade, CSU’s financial focus should be on hiring new tenure and tenure-track faculty members.

The $1.14 million set aside for bringing in 10 new faculty positions is slightly less than 10 percent of the 11.6 million the budget funnels to university stretch goals, which also include expanding athletics and financial aid.

Of the new money, students are paying for more than two-thirds. The budget, approved July 1 by the CSU System Board of Governors, allows for a $384 tuition hike, a 9.5 percent increase from last year, which brings the annual burden to $4,424 per student.

Since 2003, tuition at CSU has increased more than $1,700, or 66 percent, while the majority of the new money is going to increases in administrative costs, according to university-published documents.

But Provost Tony Frank, who says the university sets faculty expansion and academics at the highest priority level, points out that since 2003 faculty has grown about 80 positions, or about nine percent, which is a much higher growth rate than the prior decade.

“If the assumption is that we don’t place enough emphasis on faculty expansion, . I don’t think the facts support that,” Frank said in a telephone interview with the Collegian.

Frank noted in an e-mail message that the university is more than keeping up with the growth of the student population over the last three years, adding about 10 percent to the tenure and tenure-track faculty base, while the student population has only increased one tenth of a percent over the same time period.

But political science professor John Straayer remains critical, saying that the expansion is tepid at best. While Straayer said he believes CSU must stay true to its identity as a research institution, more cash flow to academia is paramount in keeping a CSU degree competitive.

Straayer said that, while the student population has increased by nearly 250 classroom seats over the last five years, the budget moves too little of new revenue, which is largely supplied by student pocketbooks, into faculty expansion.

Tim Gallagher, the Faculty Council representative to the BOG, said that, while the problem is real, the university cannot do much about it because of Colorado’s tight financial situation that plagues university officials and state legislators.

“It boils down to the fact that the legislators only had so much money,” Gallagher said in a phone interview.

Since 2003, funding for academics, including faculty pay, academic colleges and library costs, has increased 43 percent. But at the same time, funding for increases in administrative costs has more than doubled in the last five years, according to university budget records.

And Straayer says it’s not clear what exactly that money pays for.

“Not only in any single year, but as a pattern . if there is more money coming from students, where is the money going? What are they purchasing?” Straayer said.

Frank said the items under administrative costs are numerous, and many of them are invisible to the student body and faculty members. Administrative staff, he said, ranges from the guy sitting at a desk on the top floor of the Administration Building to the woman pushing a vacuum cleaner in the Lory Student Center at 2 a.m.

And the administration draws a total of 3.7 percent of the university’s expenditures, which Frank says is more than 30 percent less than CSU’s peers.

A total of $39.2 million of new revenue was approved by the CSU System Board of Governors. Most — $27.5 million — of the new money will go to mandatory costs, such as salary increases and debt service.

And he points out that, according to the university fact book published at www.ir.colostate.edu, the rate of administrative funding growth at CSU was five times the rate of growth in academics.

News Managing Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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