Senate of the Urbana-Champaign Campus

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April 24, 2006


Committee on the Budget
2005-2006 Annual Report

The Senate Committee on the Budget studies the University and campus budgets, the criteria used to determine allocation of resources at our campus, and the educational policy implications of budgetary decision-making. The committee makes recommendations on proposed budgetary increases, as well as other matters that fall within its purview.

The University of Illinois has embarked on an ambitious strategic plan to advance rapidly and broadly toward preeminence among public research universities in the
U.S. through leadership in education and the national research agenda. At the same time the University is determined to contribute to a better world for the State of Illinois, the nation, and the global village through addressing critically important societal issues by our research and teaching. Faced with this challenge, we must have a strong budgetary base to fund our efforts and facilitate the proper functioning of the necessary infrastructure.

Whereas recent economic situations in the State have not been very supportive, we can be pleased that the University, in a short time period, has developed new financial resources outside its traditional base and diversified its funding sources. Research grants, industry partnerships, and development efforts now play an increasingly important role in our budget. The Stateís role as the chief source of funds for this state institution has declined over the years but it still remains our most important patron. It was against this backdrop that the committee set the agenda for 2005-2006 to deliberate on our proposal for fiscal year 2008.

The committee lauds the University administration for understanding the importance of a dual strategy of embracing our traditional funding sources while aggressively pursuing new avenues. We must deal with the most urgent budgetary issues for the campus, and at the same time, we must come up with solutions for the challenges for the near future.
The 2005-06 Senate Budget Committee focused on three issues relevant to the budget process for fiscal year 2008:

(1) deferred maintenance;

(2) budgetary implications of interdisciplinary efforts;

(3) the danger of further decline in State support. The following report and recommendations were transmitted to Provost Linda Katehi on April 21.
(1) Deferred Maintenance
The committee wants to reinforce the Universityís renewed concern for deferred maintenance. There are obviously other concerns that are central to the campusís future, such as faculty talent and compensation, new programmatic initiatives, the quality of our undergraduate and graduate programs, etc.

However, as the last several decades have demonstrated, it is all too easy to neglect the maintenance of our infrastructure. Indeed, buildings, classrooms, offices and labs have deteriorated so badly in some sectors of the campus that they threaten our ability to attract and retain top faculty and students. The state of some facilities also erodes the quality of programs and productivity of existing faculty, staff and students.
The Board of Trustees recently approved a student assessment to assist with covering costs for addressing deferred maintenance issues

While this may be among the few alternatives available for generating the necessary funding, it is unfortunate that the costs for restoring buildings that were used by past generations of students and will serve future generations of students will need to be covered by current students even if they do so willingly. The buildings on this campus are some of the best assets of the State, and the State should take a much more active role in their maintenance and renovations.


(1) We endorse the idea of gradually increasing set-asides to bring our budget for deferred maintenance within the range of our peer institutions.

(2) We encourage a better dialogue between the University and the State, through President White, Chancellor Herman, and other appropriate University representatives to boost the priority of maintenance and renovation of our buildings.

(2) Budgetary Implications of Interdisciplinary Efforts
A hallmark in the campusís strategic plan is the encouragement of interdisciplinary research and educational programs by bringing faculty and students from various disciplines and colleges together for the common goal of groundbreaking research and teaching. We support this initiative and direction because through such interdisciplinary efforts our niche, and indeed, our future are defined and new disciplines are born. Nevertheless, we caution against the potential pitfalls, which come in the forms of infrastructure and prestige.
Interdisciplinary efforts are costly in that it usually means bringing scholars out of their usual department niche to new locales on campus, sometimes new buildings with new supporting personnel. These new units sometimes receive centers grants, Title VI, or core funding from agencies like the National Science Foundation.

Regardless, there still is tremendous demand on the campusís budget.
Perhaps more importantly, these interdisciplinary efforts may go against our very effort of trying to achieve preeminence among public institutions. Like it or not, we as a campus are judged by various sorts of rankings, and these rankings, be they U.S. News and World Reportís or National Research Councilís, are invariably discipline-based. Whether interdisciplinary efforts would pay off to increase disciplinary prestige is an open question. They can, but there are risks to balance

(1) We encourage caution, when planning for interdisciplinary units, in the budget of their infrastructure in terms of personnel, office space and other resources that would otherwise be available to existing academic programs. Having multiple offices can be a scholarís pride in the 1980s and 1990s, but such practice has become increasingly impractical under the dire economic circumstances in the new millennium.

(2) We suggest a careful SWOT analysis (in long-term pay-off, especially potential pay-off to established disciplines that are our core strengths) of planned interdisciplinary units before committing budget.

(3) The Danger of Further Decline in State Support
The State remains a significant source of recurring income.

There is concern that some State legislators may want to reduce our support because we are not admitting children from their constituencies who passed our admissions standards when the University opened its doors to other (out-of-state or international) students. A few of these legislators think that since tax payersí children are being denied admissions, the University should not need as much funding. News articles in the Sun-Times, Daily Herald and Daily Illini made false accusations, leading to a perception that the University is not taking as many in-state students in recent years. In truth, the 2005 freshman class was 89.5% in-state compared to 87.4% in 2003. Because of more applicants, admission standards have increased, but there are no quotas adversely affecting in-state applicants. This negative publicity scenario endangers our future funding from the State.

There are, however, political ramifications to limiting growth in admissions. Because of the balloon in number of applications, and graduating high school cohorts of students increasing in size, remaining at the same admission numbers likely results in de facto tightening of admission standards. The result is that many students who would have been qualified to attend the University in the past will not be able to do so in the future. Our twin aims are to further improve the quality of our programs and to serve a large state patronage. This problem is circumvented by allowing a temporary increase to the number of admitted students. But how can this be achieved in a time of budgetary constraints?

There are some possible solutions.


(1) We recommend making public in different media and forums, especially to the state legislation, that there are no quotas and that we have admitted more in the past few years: 7,563 incoming freshman in 2005 compared to 6,801 in 2003. Because of the increase in numbers, we deserve more State funding.

(2) We suggest strategically increasing the number of visiting as well as tenure-system faculty and using these more effectively in teaching and a better and more effective use of teaching assistants so that existing faculty can effectively reach/teach a larger number of students.

(3) We encourage the consideration of a redistribution of teaching loads (both within and across units) so that again each faculty member handles an increase in the number of students.
There are positives and negatives associated with each of these recommendations. But perhaps the negatives of these possible solutions are outweighed by the negatives of the political as well as economic ramifications of failing to admit an increased number of undergraduate students.

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Tim Liao, Chair
Alyson Kirkpatrick
Gay Miller
Peter Nardulli
Alison Schmulbach
Michael Andrechak, ex officio