VP of finance: KSU ‘much better off’ with RCM model


“If you look at the university as a whole, which is the way we have to look at it, the university is much better off since we put that in,” — senior VP of finance Greg Floyd

Carrie Blazina

Provost Todd Diacon said at previous universities he has worked at, the old model was inefficient as well.

“You get departments that have no enrollment growth or are losing enrollment, but their budget stays the same or even grows, and you have departments that would have phenomenal enrollment growth and they’d be really struggling because their base budget hadn’t changed at all,” Diacon said.

Under RCM, colleges keep track of their own revenue and expenses and simply report it all back to the provost’s office. If colleges are doing well, officials said, they have a lot more freedom than under the previous model.

Tim Martin, associate vice president for academic budget and resource management, said the provost now has fewer decisions to make and more of the decision-making lies with the deans.

“The deans get to make that decision within their own colleges, where they see the enrollment growth,” Martin said. “They can react to it a lot quicker than coming to the provost and asking for additional budget dollars.”

Diacon said although the deans still have to get funding approved with him, they have more autonomy.

“They’re not going to do something big without talking to me and getting in my head, but that’s different than coming to me and asking me for money,” Diacon said. “It’s more, ‘This is what I want to do with this funding, are you OK with that?’”

Better off?

Although every college is doing well, Floyd said, some of the “startup” responsibility centers are having a rough start. Because they need time to hire faculty, advertise to students and grow enrollment, the College of Public Health and the School of Digital Sciences have minimal profits.

“We had anticipated that [the] College of Public Health was not going to be able to make it in the RCM environment for a couple of years,” Floyd said.

Floyd said the College of the Arts also tends to be less successful because it’s expensive to run a program like the School of Music where teachers have low class sizes and use expensive class materials like instruments.

Diacon, however, said central administration is generally pleased with how RCM has been run.

“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that would say, in central administration, that the colleges haven’t done a good job managing RCM,” he said.

Floyd said in comparison with other Ohio schools, the university has not had to make as many cutbacks in faculty and staff or their salaries.

“If you look at the university as a whole, which is the way we have to look at it, the university is much better off since we put that in,” Floyd said. “[And] the colleges are better off in the aggregate.”

Budget cuts hinder hiring?

English professor Mack Hassler, former chair of Faculty Senate and member of the Faculty Senate Budget Advisory Committee, said he does think the hiring process was better under the old model.

Hassler said the English Department has not been able to fill several vacant positions in recent years, partly because the college deans have control of the distribution of many departments’ revenue. This means the department could get less money than it is making, he said.

Additionally, Hassler said, tenure-track professors are expensive, and RCM encourages colleges to hire fewer tenure-track professors and fill vacancies with non-tenure-track and part-time professors.

This is an issue for tenured professors, he said, because they want to see their “brand” of teaching continue.

“We don’t want the tenure-track breed to die out,” Hassler said. “I don’t think the university does either, but it’s more expensive to keep that breed going.”

Mark Kretovics, an associate professor in the graduate program of foundation, leadership and administration, was on the committee that looked at RCM and what it would do when it was first being implemented. He said he also sees issues with hiring and transparency under RCM.

In some cases, the central administration still approves hiring within the colleges and departments.

“We’re still doing decision-making at the central level but asking people to be held accountable at the lower levels,” he said. “So we’ve passed on a lot of the responsibility [to deans] but not much of the authority.”

While Kretovics said he is optimistic about what RCM can do for the university, he wasn’t sure it was being used to its full potential. He said administrators have not included enough professor input into budgeting, which should be done by FASBAC, the Faculty Senate’s budget committee.

FASBAC is “too cumbersome, and really nothing gets done. The committee doesn’t really do anything anymore. It’s more of the administration comes in and says ‘here’s what we’ve done’ and the committee goes, ‘OK, sounds good,’” Kretovics said.

Dan Mahony, dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services, said state budget cuts have forced Kent State to be more frugal in terms of hiring, and that’s why professors are saying colleges and departments don’t have the hiring freedom they expected to have.

“Some people anticipated that under RCM there wouldn’t be that kind of central oversight, but I think given the potential for huge cuts from the state, the president still felt that we needed to have that kind of decision made at a central level,” Mahony said.

Stanley Wearden, dean of the College of Communication and Information, said because RCM encourages colleges to be “entrepreneurial,” he looks at what is actually needed in terms of teachers. Now, not only do most colleges no longer perform “one-for-one” replacements when a professor retires, they also don’t always hire exactly the same type of professor.

“The fact that someone retires from teaching in a particular area doesn’t necessarily mean that we should simply replace that person in that same area,” Wearden said. “You may say ‘What we really need here is a non-tenure-track person who will do more purely the teaching because we don’t really need the research capacity in this.’”

Although Kretovics wants a “greater explanation” of how money is being spent under RCM, he said, faculty are better off than they were before.

“I’m a big fan of RCM if it’s implemented properly,” he said. “I think we still have some ways to go.”

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected]