MSU Finance and Administration Division - 334 Wigley Admin - 507.389.6622 - fiscal-affairs@mnsu.eduMN507.389.662256001Mankato334 Wigley Admin Centerfiscal-affairs@mnsu.eduFinance and Administration DivisionMinnesota State University, MankatoMSU Flame

Budget Comments

March 27, 2003

1. I would like to offer a couple of suggestions for ways I believe MSU could collect more money in the Grants and Contracts office.

First, I believe the University is too eager to forfeit it’s collection of indirect costs on its grants and contract proposals. Indirect costs are real costs. Someone must pay the bill. Funding sources are very familiar with the concept of in directs and expect to see them as part of the proposal. There should be very few instances when we agree to forfeit them—or “contribute” them as cost share. Indirect cost recovery is unrestricted income to the institution; it does not have to be reinvested in research. When an external sponsor pays less than the full indirect cost rate, the unrecovered costs must be absorbed by the institution.

Secondly, it’s not in the University’s best interest to ever “volunteer” to cost share. Voluntary cost sharing does not enhance the proposal—good ideas do. In fact, cost sharing drives down the University’s calculated indirect cost rate. I fail to find anything advantageous about securing an award that we have immediately volunteered to subsidize. We have good people with good ideas at MSU. I feel we should demonstrate great confidence in the proposals we submit to our funding sources. I strongly believe we have a wonderful opportunity to have nearly all of our indirect costs on our grants and contracts reimbursed, as well as many more of our direct project costs funded by outside organizations.

2. If/when ME budgets get cut, any savings that have occurred on fringes should be credited as part of the cut from that department. Otherwise, those departments take a double hit trying to make required cuts and also loosing the fringe money that they have saved on unfilled positions, temporary vacancies, etc. If my department agrees to no fill a $40K position, this is really about at $52, 000 savings and that’s what should be reflected.

March 13, 2003

1. It seems ludicrous to have “Directors” who don’t supervise anyone, or who supervise very few people, yet receive substantial salaries. There are many examples of “Directors” who receive larger salaries than faculty who have advanced degrees and many years of service.
It seems MSU is “big” on giving people “titles” which equate into higher salaries. For example, we have directors who make $50,000+, yet supervise no one. There is good reason why the public complains about state workers being paid well and having perks.
A recent article in the Star Tribune (March 9) cited examples of waste that MnDOT employees are “guilty of”. If one runs down their list, you will find that MSU is “guilty” of each of these issues as well. We’re fortunate we haven’t had the public scrutiny come down on us yet.
We could save money by “flattening” out management—and not having titles for everyone just for the sake of having titles.

2. I do not have ideas for significant cost savings, but do have concerns and thoughts regarding the process of cutting the budget for next year. I share this from the point of view of a department head with AFSCME, MAPE and MSUAASF employees. In my efforts to be concise, I am stating my thoughts as directives. I am certainly aware that there is information I do not have that may change how I view this.
That said, here are my thoughts/ ideas for your consideration:
Share the pros and cons of sending out/not sending out layoff notices. It appears that MSU has chosen not to do this-a different strategy from other Minnesota State campuses. What is the reasoning?
Name varying budget scenarios. Give3-4 credible options of potential cut scenarios. Let people digest actual figures.
People are attempting to independently figure out scenarios, and the meaning those scenarios would have for their departments. That time would be more productively used if the “figuring” is based in realistic possibilities.
I have heard speculation that MSU is waiting for the Minnesota State Board to declare a financial emergency, at which point layoff notices will be waived. If this is not true, a wave of distrust could be dispelled with a statement to that effect. I have also heard a commentary that it is extremely unlikely that the Board could meet the requirements to declare a financial emergency, given the length of time these budgetary issues have been under public discussion.
What I find confusing, and what I hear that others find confusing, is that options for 04 cuts are not being presented. I appreciate that is it difficult to create a plan when you don’t know the exact magnitude of cuts the university is facing. The absence of publicized options creates the impression that no options have been evaluated (which seems unlikely) or that plan will be unveiled in a time frame that does not allow time for meaningful responses from the University community (this appears more likely). I hear people saying that they want to deal with realistic options rather than “wait and see.”
I appreciate the impeding university budget decisions represent a weighty responsibility, and I wish you the best in making those decisions. Thanks for your consideration of my thoughts.

March 5, 2003

1. I believe combining the Student Affairs vice president and Academic Affairs Vice President positions into one position would be substantial savings to the University.

2. Instead of MSU faculty/staff receiving duplicate flyers from the Music Dept., Theater, Alumni, etc. both at home and at the office, why can’t we just get a copy in the office which would save a considerable amount of postage. Another suggestion to save paper would be to create a website for music events, plays, alumni activities, etc. where we could go online and find out what is happening. There is so much waste with resources and now that we all have access to computers I don’t see why this wouldn’t work. It would also save staff time for the offices that are responsible for getting out the announcements.

March 4, 2003

1. Eliminate classes that do not meet a reasonable class size and offer those courses less frequently. Why pay instructors to teach 8-10 students? Also eliminate academic programs that are not growing and not covering their costs.

2. Regarding the funds provided by the divisions, from FY 2003 allocations, to build up the University reserve, I think that the divisions should be able to count the fringes from their salary contribution as part of their overall obiligation.

Divisional reductions in personnel funds in FY 2004 should include salary and fringes rather than salary alone.

February 24, 2003

1. It is time we began managing Faculty leave. They accrue sick leave and receive pay off of this leave upon separation, in accordance with their contract and yet appears there it little management in the usage of such leave.

Along with this we should discontinue all paid sabbaticals until such time as the budget can afford these luxuries. Although valid arguments justifying sabbaticals exist, affording this luxury to the expense of the institution that is facing layoffs is not acceptable.

2. Consider using ASF staff to teach courses (3-4 credits/semesters), for which they are qualified, as part of their work load. In my area, collectively the three of us could teach 4 math 122 sections and 2 English 101 or 242 sections in a year, saving the University between $22-24000 in adjunct salaries.

February 21, 2003

1. Thanks to VP Trauger for good information. I would like to get an estimate of how much a 15% tuition increase would generate. Also, we seem to generate quite a bit of profit with summer courses, couldn’t we try to increase those profits by better optimizing course offerings for the summer students? Potential enrollment seems to be there.

2. Limiting the use of consultants and better utilizing the talented staff we have here on campus would save money.

3. In order to replace people on leave/ sabbatical, hire no new fixed terms, replace only with adjuncts. Continue current hires if they are searches that have gone for at least one year unfilled. Turn all current (just this year) searches into fixed terms unless the area is so specialized and necessary that you cannot hire otherwise.

No sabbaticals unless mandated by the contract.

All faculty in every college should teach the full load of 12 hours per semester except as mandated by contract.

No phased Retirements! Faculty currently in phased retirement should be officially retired by now.

Administrative openings should be filled by faculty or current staff and they should be replaced by no funds or adjuncts depending on the situation.

Faculty, at their request, should be allowed to work over the 5 hour limit, if they choose and the department needs adjunct support.

More money should be spent on summer school positions, especially in areas where we know there are bottle necks for students to complete Gen. Ed. Or other requirements. All summer school money earned should be used to cover faculty and staff deficits.

.Before any “across the board” cuts are made, Program/ department cuts must be considered and implemented.

Small programs should be combined under one unit to cut down on Chair costs.

Wherever possible, administration should be cut to be as efficient as the Finance office.

Only computers broken or over 5/6 years old should be considered for replacement. Ditto with printers.

Equipment purchases should be reviewed very carefully with a priority going to health and safety and direct student use. Make do whenever possible.

Cuts should be considered at the upper and mid-levels of administration particularly in the area of Technology. No service tech cuts as it is bad enough now.

Departments who non-renew faculty should be guaranteed the position when we return to hiring in the future, unless the program is scheduled to be eliminated.

Every little community service program that is not self-supporting should be made self supporting or eliminated. (This includes items like the special math program.)

Only programs which traditionally require at least 4 year program should be kept. Tech programs which could be done in two years should be returned to Minnesota State control for redistribution to tech schools as appropriate. If the students want a four year degree, they can transfer here after their tech education.

Sports programs should be cut back or eliminated. In particular at least one sacred cow in this area should be cut back either by elimination or in travel, or numbers of coaches or level of competition, etc.

All team travel for “extra” games should be eliminated or funded from outside the university, even the cheapest.

The library should be held harmless. Just staying at the current level is a cut in their resources.

Nursing must be kept.

Engineering should be kept, but their program should be reviewed for duplication just as other programs should be.

No cuts for lower level staff unless their positions are eliminated by program or service cuts.
Maintenance should be limited to health and safety and student use criteria. Ie. Don’t remodel offices, etc.

4. Having met with various legislators at IFO lobby Day and testified for nursing education and Minnesota State before the Senate Higher Education Committee on Thursday, February 20, 2003, I believe I have some insight into the general consensus. My thoughts are that old messages of “You should support Higher Education because it is a good thing” (even though state support for Higher Education has declined since 1987) will not work with those in current control. I think we need to approach legislators from a business model perspective of education as an investment (currently the governor’s office is defining it as “subsidized”). The governor states that he wants to “preserve a competitive higher education” (Susan Heegard, Governor Pawlenty’s higher education advisor”. Therefore, I believe we must pursue avenues that would keep us competitive, using a portion of the increased tuition to support our own University’s students to enroll through scholarship programs, engaging the business community to directly support our investment). I believe it would be advantageous for President Davenport to engage city and county leaders to lobby local House Representatives to propose restoring the taxation at the level of 1995. That would at least help us to recover but could be marketed as a restoration rather than an increase. This would address the decrease in LGA and support Higher Education. I hope this is somewhat helpful.

5. It will be difficult to "cut" because this institution is a fairly lean operation as is. Given this reality, I believe that the revenue side of the equation needs to be adjusted upwards.

Therefore, I would advocate a major tuition increase at all (and stress all) Minnesota State schools. By major I am thinking at least $1,000/year. Parents I have talked to seem to think our tuition is "cheap," especially compared to other state schools and private colleges (the latter is obvious).

While this may seem extreme (the tuition hike), upon further reflection, I think not for the following reasons:

a. relying on cuts not revenue will decrease the educational quality--we need to do our jobs and do them well;

b. the staffing and technology needs of the information era are a major factor in driving up the costs of higher education. The state (regardless of who or which party is in command of the government), has shown little inclination to acknowledge this reality and let alone deal with it in an appropriate manner;

c. the state electorate is against new at-large taxes; but seems quite comfortable with user fees. I am not sure if this comprises good long run strategy, but for better or worse, it is seemingly where the bulk of the population is at this time. The tuition increase fits this situation.

d. I also think if the students have to pay more they will work harder in their classes. By the same token, we will have to supply the resources to make "quality" a reality and not merely feel-good slogan.

Finally, I see no other option. The cut strategy really needs to be vertical and needs to be made at a higher level (the state legislature and governor's office in conjunction with Minnesota State and UM officials). Translation--the higher ed infrastructure of this state is overbuilt for a state with 5 million people and the only way to implement a cut strategy successfully is with vertical cuts (closing down of some of the smaller and more marginal UM and Minnesota State schools). However, Minnesota has a cultural tradition of funding new infrastructure, while neglecting the existing infrastructur. I simply do not see this changing. Thus, we are once again brought back to the tuition revenue/user tax paradigm.

February 20, 2003

1. If they take any more away from us, we will not be a competitive institution of higher education and will not attract quality new faculty. Our salaries are already very low.

It looks as if Coalition of MN Businesses wants to take over higher education. Why should they be in the business to provide public educational services? Secondly, compensation and benefits for employees with same educational levels in private sector are much higher than MSU’S. For example, corporations almost always contribute to retirement benefits (and I bet private colleges do too). The senior pastor of my church (<600 members) gets almost $18,000/ year in retirement contribution by the church!

Perhaps IFO should be the same as the other unions with health insurance: Employee health insurance paid by state but dependents’ health insurance paid by employee.

The Free Press mentioned that K-12 teachers did not like the idea of salary freeze for 2 years. Neither do University faculty. We should encourage the legislature to freeze all or none of public employee’s salaries. Teachers in district 77 received a 9.5% raise in their last negotiations.

2. Eliminate memos, flyers, cards, etc that are sent to all MSU faculty and staff- post this information electronically or put in on announce. I would imagine that 99% of the people who receive this throw it away immediately.

Eliminate unnecessary travel.

Eliminate unnecessary spending on food (on-campus and off-campus) during searches and “celebrations.”

Get cheaper stationary. The current stationary we use costs $100 per ream.

Reduce the number of off campus mailings to students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff. Especially prospective students and current students.

As a current employee, MSU alum, and adjunct faculty member, I hear students, parents, faculty, and staff express their frustration with the new “billing” system at MSU. Have you ever received a credit card bill from Visa with a worksheet to figure it out yourself? Why have we adopted a policy that requires MSU to cut checks to reimburse parents for overpaying when they didn’t understand the worksheet, or to re-bill them because they miscalculated their payment and then charge them an “administrative fee”? I would imagine that most parents and students are paying this without even questioning it? Is this how we choose to make money to cover budget losses?

It also seems unnecessary to have state vehicles driving all over campus dropping people off or not doing much of anything.

3. I think the decision to pass any reform that freezes wages and then goes on to suspend retirement contributions AND decreases health benefits is excessive for the employee. Most of us work in excess of 40 hours per our contract that says we work until the work is done. Therefore, with the normal cost of living increase and the major reduction in benefits, most of us would have trouble staying in this job and paying our bills. I think we are all willing to do our part in accepting some of the burden and a freeze on salaries is more than enough, but the other reforms are more than we should have to bare.

4. Stop buying pallets full of new computers. Last years models will work just fine for another year or more. Buying new ones just to have them is not fiscally sound. The students could learn more by trying to get more performance from the old ones. The latest and greatest is not always the best.

Stop shuffling staff into different offices every other year. Every time they move it means another remodel job. Another remodel equals more money.

5. How much could we save by closing down the university every Friday at noon? Even if it were only for a short time, I would think we could see some big savings. I think everyone could live with one day less on their paycheck every 2 weeks for the cause. That would be better than layoffs in my opinion.

6. Eliminate PSEO statewide.

7. Offer employees to take unpaid leave One or _ days during a 2 week pay period without losing accruals.

8. Does the proposed salary freeze apply to employee promotions also? It is one thing for employees remaining in the same position to have their salaries frozen. It is another, and far more unfair, for employees to be promoted and not get any pay increase for the promotion either, on account of the salary freeze? In other years, employees who are promoted receive a pay increase with the promotion; why should employees who are promoted this year lose that?

9. Close administrative offices down at noon on Fridays during the summer-without penalization of sick leave and vacation leave.

10. Health Insurance Benefits: Staff people have to pay a share of the cost; therefore, faculty and administration should have to do the same.

Tuition waiver: Staff people only get a 1 _ band. Faculty and administration should have to abide by the same.

If a freeze is initiated on wages, it should definitely be for ALL those working at MSU.

Equipment funds could be used for NECESSARY expenses.

Cancel all building plans for two years.

Try four work days, 10 hour days, per week, to save on utilities.

11. There is a tremendous waste of paper here at MSU. Everyone does not need their own copy. If one copy of the information was sent to the Director and one to the secretary it could be passed around. We all don’t need personal copies of the Buz, or temporary summer phone book supplements, and on and on. There are so many mail items that are on very expensive paper. It just isn’t necessary. We have a wonderful email system that is cheap and efficient. We certainly could do more using the technology we currently that is cheap and efficient. We certainly could do more using the technology we currently have.

12. I know that each college has a “Development Director” who makes a lot more money than me. I think we can save $200K or more by making their positions dependent on the amount of money they raise. Or simply consolidate all of them into one single position.

13. The real cost of the Microsoft mail server was very likely well over a million dollars (it required many other expensive purchases), and the license fees alone are many thousands of dollars per year. Email and calendaring services could have been provided at a fraction of the cost. Someone outside of ITS should examine the ITS budget with a critical eye, in particular the business partnerships, which may reflect more loyalty to businesses like Microsoft and Dell than the budget here at MSU. Also, the practice of buying computers to fill vendor’s purchase quotes or to try and get bulk discounts should be stopped right away. Nobody is watching how funds are being spent at ITS, and somebody should be.

14. Raise tuition the full 15% to cover the cost of inflation and base funding reduction. Raise fees to cover cost accordingly.

Limit enrollment by program to the number of students that can be served with current faculty and infrastructure capabilities. Enrollment limits should be based on academic merit, NOT date of application.

Limit transfer student and part time admissions to open slots in programs.

Perform strategic hiring where holes exist in instructional capacity.

Make position allocations at a higher level than that of the college Deans based on the needs of the overall university, rather than on issues of turf.

Penalize college’s search budgets for each line that experiences more than 2 consecutive failed searches.

Make all search decisions in a timely fashion. MSU is 6 months behind the ball in everything and loses candidates and fails searches by this policy.

Eliminate the use of most fixed term positions due to search time and money costs and damage to program integrity and efficiency.

Eliminate graduate programs below a critical mass of students.

Decide what MSU wishes to be. (We cannot be all things to all people, so let us do a few things well and leave other things to those better able to do them. Aka what Minnesota State was SUPPOSED to achieve)

15. I think over all Management has to get their house in order by controlling spending and by offering to take cut’s in salary’s. Why is it always us on the bottom of the ladder asked to take a wage freeze or to be laid off? I have a few suggestions that I have been thinking about;

Have all Departments give a good reason why they need to buy that piece of equipment, office supplies, furniture; etc.

Put freeze on hiring any staff, faculty or management for the next two years.

Reduce M.S.U utilities even more by lowing tempture’s in classrooms or rooms not being used during the normal work day or on weekends. Even put up signs reminding people to shut off lights and close all doors behind them.

Have all Academic Departments justify or explain why they have fewer than 10 students in a class room at a time. When they could look at eliminating that class or just offer that class once or twice a year.

16. I wish to express my thinking that the University could save a great deal of money by relying more heavily on computer systems and related technologies for all areas of operation, especially in the classroom. In my opinion, creativity and ingenuity are more in demand at this time than ever before. We need to be problem solvers in a new way. Electronic communications have the potential to increase efficiency and save money in so many more ways than are currently being utilized.

It seems that the main reason we are all here, to educate students, is where the use of computer and related technologies needs to be expanded almost immediately. Students can now tour and choose a college, apply for admission, and register for classes online. They can receive and return assignments, take exams, watch video’s online, and even access library materials online. Use of computers and technology for university business and support systems is increasing at a brisk, effective pace. Yet the means of delivering course content continues to trudge along, being perceived as but one option in the background of teaching methods.

MSU already has many MANY technological options that could/should be used to augment some educational models and to replace other inefficient models of teaching, such as offering only live lecture formats. MSU also owns technology that would allow students to “attend” classes via ITV, online, etc. Why must undergraduate lectures be offered only as on-site courses when we have these resources already available?

Our classroom, dormitories, and parking lots are bulging and eating up far more resources than necessary. MSU has a reputation as a “suitcase” college, with most students going back to their hometowns on weekends, holidays, AND commuting several days during the week! Our department spends INORDINATE amounts of time and energy trying to accommodate the needs to students wanting to come for classes only 2 or 3 days a week so they can stay in their hometowns and work at jobs they MUST have to support themselves. They try to pack 5 or 6 classes into one or two 13 hour days but as they put it, are merely “taking up space” later in the day. Effective learning cannot take place under these stressful conditions.

Why can’t many/most lecture classes be offered as distance education? Several scheduled meetings per semester with the professor are most likely adequate for general ed classes. ITV should be considered for sessions where the curriculum calls for group discussion or presentations.

ITV is a viable option that deserves MUCH more support that it receives now. With more coordinated effort and cooperation between schools and sites, service delivery can be raised to the level of dependability required. Many faculty do not want to use it, not for lack of teaching effectiveness, but because of the poor track record for managing the set up of technology (not here at MSU, but at outlaying sites). Educators in my department have been more than satisfied with IVT once it is set up for the session. Once good connections are established, I have found ITV to be nearly problem-free on any given day. Used effectively and cooperatively to augment other means of course delivery, ITV costs are not unreasonable.

The biggest problems for ITV have been identifying the optimal network configurations and, especially, having TRAINED, DEPENDABLE technical support readily available during a class. I, personally, have experienced countless times when support could not be located in a timely fashion (at MSU off-campus sites). And it has been more than obvious to me that “support” persons at off-site locations are NOT TRAINED! But those are all solvable problems.

As coordinator of continuing education in my department, I sit in the back row during every class so that I am available for any unforeseen support needs. While I am there, I have my laptop, papers to read, exams to correct, coffee, etc. I actually do some of my best work while I am multitasking in this way. I daresay, any educator or GA would have similar work that could be accomplished in the same way while providing live support for ITV courses.

It we want to keep the doors to higher education open, we must be receptive to CHANGE at all levels, including administration. Cooperation between educational entities is vital to make the best use of resources. I place a high value on the work that the ITS people are doing. Every day, I have greater appreciation for the amount of MSU operations information available on MSU websites. New technologies for carrying out all areas of university business is invaluable to everyone, not just office personnel.

All of that said, why not put MAXIMAL EFFORT into ONE area of change at MSU? One that would have the most bang for the buck? “Require” use of electronic technology for course delivery in the form of ITV and online courses, restrict use of paper and related resources for coursework and other communication, and MOST IMPORTANT, SPEND MUCH MORE AND CHEAPER DOLLARS ON NON FACULTY PERSONNEL, GAS AND WORK STUDY TO KEEP IT ALL GOING SO IT WORKS EFFECTIVELY.

Our salvation will not be in bigger buildings and parking lots or more classroom space! It will be in using our heads to problem solve and insisting that we all embrace creative change as an adventure instead of a nightmare.

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content: gary urban