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Responsibility Centered Management: New budget model proposes to decentralize units at USF

Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014

Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 01:01

According to a 2011 accountability report, many faculty members expressed concerns over the university using different calculations for how to assign state funding increases and how they distributed cuts to each unit. They also expressed concerns over increasing centralized marketing initiatives from the university that prevented them from targeting their unique demographics they hoped to seek for enrollment. 

Eisenberg said he thought the dean level would be an intermediary step to complete decentralization.  Deans could also take action on behalf of departments, some of whom he said may have a “rude awakening” when they realize their financial positioning in relation to their colleges, though several areas still need to be fleshed out. 

Support units, or units that provide services to the university but don’t generate revenue, for example, would be funded based on a tax of revenue producing units, he said, but how the tax should be developed, how big it should be and whether it should be up for re-negotiation, is something that would need to be explored. 

Providing training for some fields, such as medicine and engineering, costs more than for fields such as history or philosophy, Eisenberg said, and though state dollars aren’t proportionally allocated based on the types of students enrolled, he said the RCM model would have to account for that. 

But some faculty questioned whether the model was aligned with the overall priorities of the university. 

“I can understand the pure business sense of this model, but where is the academic sense in it?” Steve Permuth, a professor in the College of Education, said. 

“(The RCM model) really isn’t designed for academic excellence,” Eisenberg said. “It’s an attempt to bring in mind the academic aspirations that we have with the economic realities we’re facing. It creates clarity about what the current reality is, about what motivates people to do the things that they wouldn’t have otherwise done.  

“It doesn’t let you off the hook (from) conversations about quality and conversations about what is a money loser for the university that we must continue to invest in and subsidize because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “I don’t think for a moment that we can’t do that, but it would be good to be conscious of the extent to which we’re doing that.” 

Permuth said consciousness of gaps in budget subsidies was not enough, and that he’d like to hear of pros and cons of the model from other universities that had implemented the model. 

“If you don’t have academic excellence driving the procedures at this university, we have a big problem,” he said. “It’s not only economics, it’s academics.”

Eisenberg said he had heard reassuring things from other universities.  

“They tell me the dream is real,” he said. “You can get to the point of transparency where anybody can look at it and see, ‘Oh, I see the money coming in. I see the distribution. I understand how that works.’”

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