New budget model focus of spring forum

Kevin Kolus

After examining different budgeting models for Kent State, David Creamer, senior vice president of administration, said Responsibility Centered Management “deserves further consideration.”

At the 2007 annual Faculty Senate Spring Forum yesterday, Creamer and RCM Committee members Betsy Boze, Dean of Stark Campus, and Mark Kretovics, associate professor of educational administration, fielded questions from more than 70 faculty members. RCM was the only topic at the meeting.

RCM is a budgeting model that forces each department at Kent State to fund itself through tuition and fees instead of receiving money from a centralized administration, which is how the current budgeting process called “incremental budgeting” works. With RCM, units that do not generate funds, such as the Library and Honors College, have to rely on the donation of funds from other profitable units to survive.

President Lester Lefton asked Creamer last year to research how the university handles its budgeting process. RCM committee members then reviewed different options, and RCM is now the only model being seriously discussed.

“It’s all about how to make better decisions about the financial resources we do have,” Creamer said.

In 1980, 62 percent of Kent State’s funding came from the state, Creamer said. In 2006, only 27.9 percent was state appropriated.

RCM will introduce what’s called “shared governance,” or deans and faculty being directly involved with budgeting decisions. This places more financial responsibility on these academic units, which would operate like small businesses making the most cost-effective decisions to stay afloat.

The administration is looking at the regional campuses for advice, Creamer said, since they run themselves in a similarly independent way.

One of the potential concerns of RCM is that there will be too much focus on finances and not on academics. Boze said RCM forces deans to make good decisions because they will need to stress the academic validity of requiring more money.

When asked by faculty members how it would be possible to measure the success of RCM if it were implemented, Boze said it has not yet been decided, and it would take multiple years to execute.

“We have not set up those accountability measures at this point,” she said. “I think the ultimate success will be the university moving more rapidly toward accomplishing its goals.”

Creamer said that although it would be impossible to determine if RCM would be successful before its implementation, there has not been an institution yet that has applied RCM and then moved away from it.

Some universities using the model include Tulane, UCLA and the University of Michigan. Ohio State uses a hybrid version of RCM.

“It’s good to be challenged,” Creamer said. “In my opinion, the more funds we put into the academic units, the better off this institution will be.”

George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies, said RCM will “change what the academy is all about.”

A move to RCM might mean a move away from a liberal arts institution, he said, and since this budgeting model is not completely understood, it would be “like playing Russian roulette.”

“I would be reluctant to make a fundamental change on something that might be temporary,” he said. “We shouldn’t just throw up our hands and give up the fight.”

Kretovics disagreed with Garrison, arguing that dwindling state support is a national trend and that it would not get any better.

Before the RCM Committee makes its final recommendation to Lefton, it will consult with the “university community” one more time, Creamer said.

Contact academics reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].