SU considers new budget system
Syracuse University held the first of three town hall meetings yesterday to discuss the implementation of a plan to potentially change the university’s budget structure.
A 27-member task force has spent the last several months studying the feasibility of adopting a budget system known as Responsibility Center Management. Under the proposed RCM system, schools and colleges within the university would directly receive a student’s tuition revenue based on enrollment. Under the current system, revenue is collected centrally and then distributed to individual colleges.
‘Schools and colleges would be put in a more center position,’ said Michael Wasylenko, chairman of the task force and the senior associate dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.
Last evening’s forum in Maxwell Auditorium was attended by about 20 people, mostly faculty and staff. Wasylenko discussed the impact the changes would have on the university’s financial structure. He was joined by Gerald Mager, chairman of the Senate Budged at Fiscal Affairs Committee and professor of education.
‘It’s a better alignment of resources, responsibility and authority,’ Wasylenko said.
Under the RCM system, 25 percent of students’ tuition would go directly to the college that a student is enrolled in. The remaining 75 percent would be given to the colleges based on the courses the student took. For example, if an engineering student took two classes in The College of Arts and Sciences, they would receive revenue for instructing that student. The more students a school enrolls and instructs, the more tuition money it would receive.
‘The deans have a lot of responsibility but not necessarily the authority,’ Wasylenko said. ‘It’s pretty empowering for the deans.’
With RCM, revenue would go directly to colleges, making it necessary to change the way non-revenue deriving units are funded. Colleges would pay a fee back to the university to fund public safety, special events, judicial affairs, the libraries and other units that can’t fund themselves.
‘Each unit would be charged a participation fee,’ Mager said.
Classroom space and maintenance of the university grounds would be funded through a common charge, while research labs and office space would be charged to individual colleges, Wasylenko said.
Each unit, considered a responsibility center, would create their own budgets, but will still need to have their budget approved every year.
‘It is irresponsible to suggest units can do whatever they want so long as they pay for it,’ Mager said. ‘The largest issue in terms of governance is what structures will we create here at Syracuse University given our history.’
The RCM model creates added incentives for schools and colleges to raise money and retain and enroll students. Currently the incentives of schools and colleges don’t match up with the mission and goals of the university, Wasylenko said.
The task force has traveled to other universities that operate with a RCM system. The group found that each school with this system has implemented it in a different way. They visited Rochester University, Duke University and the University of Southern California, each of which has its own unique system.
‘This has got to fit the culture of this institution,’ Wasylenko said.
The task force intends to make its final report to the University Senate on April 20. If the plan is approved, the university will run under the current system, but with a parallel budget based on the RCM model beginning July 1. The RCM model would become fully operational beginning on July 1, 2006. The new system would require more transparency in budgeting process.
The plan would require changes in the way the university financial system is structured. Once the new system is implemented there would be a need for further modification to better serve the university.
‘There are going to be some glitches,’ Wasylenko said.
Enrollment formulas would also need to be developed. Complications occur from dually enrolled students who study abroad and the cyclical nature of enrollment. The complex nature of University College and the graduate program also add complications. A system of cross-subsidies would protect responsibility centers that have down years, Wasylenko said.
‘You’ve got to be prepared for the ups and downs,’ he said.
Colleges would be billed for scholarships, faculty, fringe benefits and record keeping.
‘Schools and colleges will see all the implications of what they are doing,’ Wasylenko said.
Some of the university’s auxiliary services would be self-sufficient responsibility centers as well. The Carrier Dome, athletics, health service, student activities and Drumlins are some of the units that would fund themselves based on revenue they create.
‘I came in slightly skeptical, but am impressed,’ said Carl Rosenzweig, professor of physics and astronomy. ‘They’ve done their homework.’
It is important vital units that don’t derive their own revenue continue to be funded, he said.
‘In the sense that it will lead to a more efficient budget process it will be good.’
Thomas Wolfe is leaving his position as senior vice president and dean of student affairs to become the new president of Iliff School of Theology… Read more »
UPDATED: MAY 15, 4:35 p.m. Syracuse University students will soon see new living options in downtown Syracuse, after a new construction company revamps a vacant… Read more »
THEY'RE BACK: Syracuse pulls off furious comeback win against Yale to return to final four after longest absence since 1979
COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Brian Megill sprinted over to Dominic Lamolinara and catapulted into his arms. The game was over. The unthinkable was no longer… Read more »