Thursday, June 26, 2008

College Finances - A Proposed Meme

I am a big fan of Dean Dad's blog about the administrative side of a CC. I learn a lot about his job and, indirectly, the challenges my own Dean faces that I don't already know about. However, one thing that bugs me is the absence of some all important context: budgets.

I've challenged him several times to give us an idea of what parameters he has to operate within, but no joy. Others who comment there might also benefit from knowing how their own colleges look in comparison to his. I suspect that he is justifiably concerned that too much information would expose his identity, but I have a solution. Normalize the data, and round some of the numbers to obscure their origin further. Details are below the fold.

Link to your example in the comments. I'll do mine in a separate article, and maybe one or two others for grins.

You must choose one of three categories: Community College (budget normed to 10.0 M$), 4-year College or University (normed to 100 M$), and Research University (normed to 1000 M$).

I know these numbers are unrealistic, since my CC's budget is much bigger than 10 M$ and the University of Michigan is around 2000 M$ without counting their side businesses, but they have the virtue of being easily compared. Besides, I know a small CC that has a budget less than 10 M$ and several mid-sized universities in the 100 M$ range, so they are not complete nonsense.

The selection of the budget numbers themselves can be problematical. For a CC, it should be the entire budget. For universities, it should be the total of the "general revenue" and "research" budgets, so universities would have one extra income category (research grants) and two extra expense categories (research expenditures and overhead). This will illustrate just how "research extensive" your school is. Exclude major items like the 2400 M$ the University of Michigan budgets for its hospital and other businesses (football?) that actually exceed their teaching and research budgets.

Income should include a breakdown for public funds (you can identify the tax base as being state or local if you wish), tuition, and other (which would be mostly grants and gifts at at CC), with a separate research line for a university. Private schools could put endowment income in "other" or single it out. Divide each of these by the total budget to get a percentage, round badly to hide the details, and scale so they add up to the relevant total (10, 100, or 1000 M$).

Side remark:
If you know what the state/tuition ratio was 10 years ago, that would be really interesting. I have not found that info for my school but it is talked about enough that people should have data to back them up.

Expense should show the usual categories of salaries and operations, but please try to get the detailed budget info that breaks salaries down into key categories: administration (any pay grades above that of a new asst. prof?), t-t faculty, adjunct faculty, other support staff, and research faculty if that is relevant. Those can be harder to get, but see if you can give the ratio of f-t to adjunct faculty if you can't get at the salary breakdown.

If you don't know how to build a table, do a "view source" on the example I gave in a followup article and look about 1/3 of the way down into the file for a "table" tag.

If you want to give the number of FTE students (total credits divided by 30) rounded to even thousands to indicate the size of the school, feel free.

Thanks in advance.


Doctor Pion said...

My contribution for Ishkabibble CC was posted later today.

Doctor Pion said...

I posted a summary for four research intensive universities today.

By the way, if all you have are data from the "income" side like I showed for those universities, you can just post it in the comments in the form

number : category

rather than building tables, etc, on your blog.