Letters to campus
Dear Faculty and Staff,
The fall semester is well under way and I trust your work with our students is progressing well! April and I are enjoying our visits to colleges and units and look forward to visiting all units by early November.
As I have mentioned frequently during my tenure as president, we are in the midst of a fundamental change in the way that public higher education is funded in the U.S. As many of you know, the State of Kansas is not alone in the gradual defunding of public higher education. Many major public research universities are now adopting different budgetary practices that more closely resemble the way in which private universities fund campus operations. For example, virtually all of our new academic buildings and campus renovation projects will require private philanthropic funds. The days when buildings are completely paid for with state funds are behind us. Additionally, tuition dollars constitute a much larger portion of our State General Fund budget than do the funds we receive from the Kansas Board of Regents. In short, the economic picture of how Kansas State University is funded continues to evolve and we must evolve with it.
The public higher education world of today is more reliant on private funds to meet university needs, relies more heavily on tuition and fees revenue to fund operations and new initiatives, and is more heavily dependent on enrollment growth to meet annual budgetary needs. These trends have been observed in many other states and with our K-State 2025 peer land grant institutions. As such, we should identify and evaluate best practices that have worked successfully with other public research universities as our own funding model evolves.
With these thoughts in mind, we invited President Tony Frank from Colorado State University to spend a morning with department heads, deans and senior administrators last month to describe ways in which Colorado State coped with reduced state investment while simultaneously moving forward with their strategic plan. President Frank presented us with a variety of strategies that have worked well at Colorado State — some of which are already in place at Kansas State along with some new things we have not tried.
One of the ideas presented by President Frank was to use a committee of university leaders to provide strategic recommendations related to the university budget to the university president. I believe the development of a similar type of university-wide budgetary committee at Kansas State is an appropriate step forward and will fit in well with our campus culture. Thus, after consultation with various campus leaders, I am appointing a University Budget Advisory Committee this academic year to help construct our university budget. The role of the committee will include:
- Evaluation of proposals requesting university funding for new initiatives, including those from colleges and other units.
- Evaluation of tuition and fees recommendations from the Tuition Strategies Committee — how are we balancing affordability and access with need for increased revenue?
- Development of alternate budgets or prioritized expenditures to respond to changing funding commitments by the state.
- Construction and dissemination of a rolling three-year budget for the university (including current fiscal year, next year and following year).
- Evaluation of budget reallocation plans from colleges and similar units.
- Evaluation and recommendations on the use of state funds for major capital projects.
- Regular email updates to the campus community as budget is developed during the course of the year. See the Colorado State example here.
- Assistance in communicating budgetary priorities to both internal and external audiences.
The University Budget Advisory Committee membership will include three vice presidents, three deans, the leaders of the three governance councils, and five "at large" representatives:
Provost and Senior Vice President (Chair)
Vice President for Administration and Finance
Vice President for Research
Vice President for Student Life
President of Faculty Senate or designee
Student Body President or designee
President of Classified Senate or designee
"At Large" Department Head
"At Large" Unclassified Professional Rep (nomination from Faculty Senate President)
"At Large" Faculty Rep (nomination from Faculty Senate President)
"At Large" Student Rep (nomination from Student Body President)
"At Large" Classified Staff Rep (nomination from Classified Senate President)
The committee will start meeting in October and will meet monthly as the academic year progresses. This committee will provide regular updates to the campus community as the budget for the 2014/2015 academic year is constructed. In a similar fashion to what is done at Colorado State, we will release several budget revisions as the 2013/14 academic year progresses. All budgetary information will be posted on a new website currently in development, which will contain various versions of the university budget in addition to communications to the campus community on various aspects of budget preparation.
I am sure that many of you may have questions as we move forward with the University Budget Advisory Committee and how we decide how we are using our state funds. When we try a new way of doing something, there will always be some uncertainty as what we are doing is a work in progress. However, I believe that by involving more of our campus leaders in our budgetary decisions we will develop a greater sense of inclusiveness on our finances.
If you have questions, please let me know. I appreciate the hard work all of you do to ensure that the K-State educational experience for our undergraduate and graduate students is among the best in the nation!