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About the Author.
1. Money, Money, Money.
2. Unraveling the Budget.
3. The Budget Cycle(s).
4. Problems and Pitfalls in Fiscal Management.
5. Dealing with Budget Cuts.
Glossary of Terms.
Suggestions for Further Reading.
Budgets and financial matters never seem to be topics that stir the souls of new academic managers. However, understanding both the budgetary processes and the sources of institutional financial support will be essential for your success and that of your department or program. As a manager in higher education, one of your primary roles is to garner the resources needed to implement the ideas, programs, services, and needed classes and instruction required or desired by your students, your colleagues, and other constituent groups. And it is not enough to merely obtain money to support the unit. You also need to assure that those resources are spent in accordance with institutional guidelines as well as state and federal law. Remember that in order for goals and objectives to be reached, the needed human and fiscal resources must be in place, and that means mastering budgeting and financial issues.
THE ROLE OF THE BUDGET MANAGER
The organization of each institution of higher education is unique. Some complex institutions have an elaborate organization with many program and administrative units. Other institutions are organized in a less complex fashion. No matter what the organization of the institution or the specific title of the unit budget manager (program manager, director, chair, or department head), the roles of the unit budget manager are very consistent.
First is the fiscal role of the unit budget manager, which will discussed throughout this volume. The financial success of the institution is highly dependent on unit budget managers' exercising sound fiduciary responsibility. That is not usually an easy task, for the pressures are many and the issues are complex. But unit budget managers are expected to follow institutional fiscal policies and solve problems before they become major concerns for the institution.
A second role, less recognized than the fiscal role of unit budget managers, is that of listening post for the institution. It is often unit budget managers who hear of issues and problems influencing employee morale or their ability to get work done. For example, a unit budget manger is often the first person to hear of or personally experience problems with a new purchasing system. If the unit budget manager just assumes that those individuals responsible for the installation and maintenance of the new purchasing system are aware of the problem, the system problem may never be addressed and the situation will not get any better. The wise unit budget manager conveys specific concerns to others within the institution who can address the issue and offers to partner with them in an improvement effort. To illustrate, the unit budget manager could provide specific examples of the problems she experiences or run a test purchase order on the system so the actual problem can be identified. The involvement is well worth the effort and reduces frustration for everyone involved.
A third function of the unit budget manager focuses on resource gathering through fund-raising. The unit budget manager helps those within the unit coordinate requests for external support with the development office or officer. In addition, they assist members of the unit in identifying possible funding sources for their idea or program. Finally, unit budget managers indirectly serve as friend-makers for the institution in their interactions with vendors and members of the public. One development officer noted, in casual conversation, that everyone in the institution has the potential to be a fundraiser, but they rarely recognize their role in that process.
A fourth role of the unit budget manager is designated problem solver for the unit when it comes to fiscal issues. It is the unit budget manger who must figure out how to approach a problem and gain an optimal solution for the unit. This requires development of a web of helping relationships within the institution. Understanding who to call under what circumstances is a prime role of the unit budget manager. It is clear that a unit budget manager deals with much more than money and balance sheets.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
Throughout this volume a number of terms will be used interchangeably. The broadest definition possible has been developed for terms so that the volume can be useful to individuals in all types of institutions. In addition to the glossary provided at the end of the volume, the following definitions of terms will be helpful in understanding this volume.
Unit Budget Manager or Academic Budget Manager
A unit budget manager is someone with administrative responsibility for a financial account or a number of financial accounts within the institution. For purposes of this volume, a unit budget manager could be a department chair with responsibility for accounts associated with a specific academic department, or a director with responsibility for a center or support unit. Finally, a unit budget manager could be a program director or principal investigator with responsibility for management of a grant or a discrete program unit. The unit budget manager may be assisted in his budget and fiscal management role by other staff members, but the ultimate fiduciary responsibility rests with the unit budget manager.
A unit can be any administrative division of the institution including a small discrete program. For example, for purposes of this volume, a budget unit may be a small department, a specific program, a research grant, or a division of the institution. The principles of budget and fiscal management remain the same.
In large and complex institutions, there may be a well-developed budget office with professional staff assigned to provide assistance to major budget units within the college or university. In smaller institutions, the resources are usually more restricted, with a small central staff providing support, and reliance is on the expertise of a few people. Whatever the organization, when the term central budget office is used in this volume, it refers to the entity that oversees all budget or fiscal operations within the institution.
For other terms please check the glossary of terms at the end of this volume.
THE BIG PICTURE
As an effective academic budget manager you will seek to understand the larger fiscal context of higher education and the influence that context may have on institutional budget priorities and ultimately unit budgets. You must also be able to identify the sources of the funds used to support your unit activities and the limitations that may be placed on budget decisions because of the fund source. Basic understanding of these broad fiscal issues helps you as academic budget manager ask intelligent questions, potentially identify new sources of support for unit objectives, and strengthen your ability to communicate unit needs to fiscal decision makers both within and without the institution.
Imagine that you are the president of Alpha University and are dealing with issues of budget. A combination of factors has resulted in a net revenue increase for the institution of approximately $10 million for the next fiscal year. The revenue increase is the result of an increase in tuition and fees, modest enrollment growth at the undergraduate level, new gifts to support the establishment of three endowed chairs resulting in additional funds being available for redistribution, and a modest growth in research grants resulting in an increase in indirect cost reimbursement. The issue for you and the institutional budget committee is to decide how best to invest these new resources within the institution.
Increases in budget requests for the next fiscal year from academic and support units total $14 million. Although it is clear that all such requests cannot be funded, the question of how to allocate the new revenue is much more complex than simply denying funding to $4 million of requests. Issues that influence the allocation of the $10 million in additional revenue include:
A governing board policy requires that any increase in tuition and fees results in a proportional increase in the student financial aid budget (estimated cost: $1 million).
The faculty and staff expect at least a 3.5 percent salary increment for the next fiscal year (estimated cost: $1.6 million).
Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed, resulting in a premium increase for the next fiscal year (estimated cost: $650,000 for the institutional share).
After a Title IX complaint an agreed-upon plan with the Office of Civil Rights involves an increase in support for women's intercollegiate athletics (estimate cost: $350,000 next fiscal year and an additional $200,000 per year for the next five years).
New faculty must be hired for the next academic year to convert the increased demand for required core courses in the liberal arts college. Students have been unable to get into needed courses in a timely manner (estimated cost: $500,000 increase in the base budget).
An unanticipated increase in postal rates results in an increase in the base budget for next year (estimate cost: $50,000).
The first phase of a five-year upgrade of the network and supporting Software must begin (estimated cost $500,000.).
The governing board would like to attract more National Merit Scholars and has strongly suggested that money be designated in the institutional base budget for that purpose (estimated cost: $250,000 in the first year).
As Figure 1.1 demonstrates, the actual amount of money available to fund increased budget requests from academic and support units has been drastically reduced due to the list of mandated cost increases. Less than 50 percent of the original $10 million in new revenue is available to support budget requests from academic and support units. In addition, the president has several new initiatives that she believes are critical in order to move the institution forward. None of the priorities of the president are included in the $14 million of budget increase requests already under consideration. If the presidential priorities were to be added, another $5 million of requests would be on the table for consideration. It is clear with only slightly over $5 million available and requests totaling $19 million dollars that many worthy programs and activities will not receive budget support in the next fiscal year. Such dilemmas are not rare in higher education. The wise budget manager must understand these kinds of realities and prepare budget requests insofar as possible to meet institutional goals.
The next section presents an overview of the fiscal context of higher education and a review of the multiple sources of financial support for the higher education enterprise. The similarities and differences between public and private institutions with regard to fiscal matters are also discussed. Finally, the chapter concludes with a brief discussion about why all of this is important to a new budget manager within the educational enterprise.
THE FISCAL CONTEXT OF HIGHER EDUCATION
Higher education institutions, whether public or private, are experiencing great changes related to identifying and capturing resources to support the enterprise. The broader fiscal context of higher education sets very real constraints on what can and what cannot be accomplished in any institution of higher education. These broader fiscal issues include growing competition for funds in both the public and private sector, concerns about the rising costs of higher education, increased regulations including a rise in unfunded federal and state mandates, increased competition for a skilled workforce from business and industry, the growth of technology, and the rising costs for the purchase of goods and services.
Increased Competition for Funds
Competition for funds has increased in recent years and is likely to continue to do so in the future. In most states, state government has become a growth industry; the number and variety of programs funded out of tax support grows each year. In addition, some state programs, such as health care, have expanded in order to meet the needs of an aging population. Other programs, such as prisons and public safety, have grown because of an increase in volume and public demands. Streets and highways need to be rebuilt or expanded. Recreational use of forest preserves, beaches, parks, and other state land has grown. The list of state needs goes on and on. Suffice it to say that higher education is but one of many programs seeking support from a limited amount of money at the state level (Schuh, 2000). The result has been less and less direct support for public institutions of higher education and increased expectations that such institutions develop new ways to get the resources necessary to operate the enterprise. In fact, some public institutions have changed their rhetoric and describe their institution as state "related" rather than state "supported" because the contribution of the state to the institution has diminished so much. The reduction in available state funding also influences private higher education in both direct and indirect ways. For example, state financial support to individual students can be used by the student at both public and private institutions. If funding for such programs is reduced or remains steady, more of the burden for individual student aid is shifted to the institution from the state.
During the last decade, many public institutions have joined private institutions in seeking support from foundations, alumni, parents, friends, businesses, and industry. Billion-dollar campaigns are no longer unusual. Concurrently, other charitable institutions have increased their quest for funding support. Competition for private funds is fierce and likely to remain so in the near future. Fund-raising has become a major enterprise for many institutions, and annual fund-raising is becoming essential to institutional success.
In addition, both public and private institutions have expanded their services to include specialized grants and contracts with business, industry, and government. Indirect cost recovery from such grants and contracts has become a major revenue source for many institutions. Competition is great in this domain and is likely to be so in the future.
The cost of attendance at institutions of higher education, both public and private, is becoming a growing societal concern. Parents, legislators, alumni, and friends are all expressing reservations about the rising costs of tuition, fees, room, and board. Development of new student fees as a method to garner resources had been popular with many institutions in the past. But with cost issues of concern, new fees are instituted much less frequently than in the previous decade.
Excerpted from The Jossey-Bass Academic Administrator's Guide to Budgets and Financial Management by Margaret J. Barr Excerpted by permission.
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