New budgeting proposal could give colleges more control, help with decreased state funding

Kevin Kolus

To adapt to “shrinking state support” throughout the past 10 years, Kent State might change its budgeting model and cause academic affairs to participate in cost decisions, Associate Provost Laura Davis said.

The proposed budgeting model, called Responsibility Centered Management, prevents a centralized administration from distributing funds to each school based on the school’s growth and student demand, which is how the current budgeting model works.

Instead, under RCM, each college in the university would take the income it receives through tuition and other sources and have direct control on how it should be spent.

Provost Paul Gaston said the proposal for RCM, which will be explained further in a document called the “white paper,” due out Feb. 1, has been positively received throughout the university.

“What it will do is give greater authority and responsibility to the colleges and place a very high demand on strong leadership at the college level,” he said. “The deans will gain increased control, but they will also gain increased accountability.”

President Lester Lefton proposed the need for a new budgeting process last year because of poor support from the state, said Cheryl Casper, professor of economics and chair of Faculty Senate.

She said one of the advantages of RCM is its potential to “be responsive to academic programs over time.”

“The current budget process hasn’t been as open and transparent as everyone would like,” she said. “Hopefully, with RCM, there will be a more open process with how resources are allocated.”

Casper said the idea of RCM is that each academic unit generates enough revenue to run itself.

For example, if a school grows rapidly through an increase in students, the tuition paid will be readily available for that college to fund its growth. If the college believes it needs an extra computer lab, it will have the money available to build the lab and not have to wait for administration to allocate the funds.

However, academic units that do not generate funds, such as the University Library and the Honors College, will have to wait for funds to come from other units at a currently undecided percentage.

In addition, all auxiliary units — from the Bursar’s Office to the Power Plant — will have to wait for funding to come from units generating funds. Many administrative meetings will be held in the coming months to figure out the details of the RCM proposal.

“That phrase about the devil being in the details certainly seems to apply to this situation,” Gaston said.

Casper said there are going to be many opportunities for students, faculty and staff to provide input on the RCM proposal once the “white paper” is released.

“They should get involved and voice their opinions,” she said.

Contact academics reporter Kevin Kolus at [email protected].