A Better Budget Model for KU's Future
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 57 seconds
Students, staff and faculty:
There is a saying that if you want to know what an administrator cares about, do not listen to what they say are priorities; instead, look at their budget and where they allocate resources. The new budget model for the Lawrence campus is being developed as part of a larger effort to build a more stable and fiscally healthy University of Kansas, where our priorities and our budgetary decisions tell the same story.
Evaluating the success of our new budget model requires that its structure and its results are clear and easy to understand. I want to use this message to share three key structural features of our developing model and outline our plans moving forward.
Structural Feature 1
The first structural feature of our model is the creation of three broad categories in which budgetary resources can be allocated.
Category 1 includes our foundational priorities that comprise the core essentials needed to effectively run our university. This category allows us to set aside funds to a) support regular merit raises, b) invest in our existing infrastructure including deferred maintenance, c) replenish our savings to protect against emergencies, and d) attend to other needs identified by our community that are essential to attain our instructional and research goals.
Category 2 includes our campus-wide strategic priorities that allow our university to think big and make important investments that facilitate our vision for the future of KU. This category allows us to set aside funds centrally to support our strategic priorities across campus. While immediate fiscal vulnerabilities may limit campus-wide strategic investments at this time, central investments are necessary to our future growth and accomplishment of our institutional goals.
Category 3 includes our unit-level allocations and provides the resources needed by each of our academic units — all of our schools and the College — and our academic service units that provide crucial services to students, faculty, and staff.
Structural Feature 2
The second structural feature of our model is how we allocate our funding across these three broad categories, including when we make decisions and the relative amount of the allocation to each of the three categories.
In the past, we allocated unit-level funds at the start of a fiscal year, made campus-wide strategic investments throughout the year, and addressed foundational priorities with whatever budget was left at the end of the year. This timing has created an uneven playing field for some categories. This may explain why some of our most neglected investments – such as regular merit raises for faculty and staff – are in the foundational priorities.
In our new model, we will consider each category at the start of the year and make decisions about the relative allocations in each category based on the overall context and needs across these categories. We will have difficult decisions to make about where we invest and where we can’t invest. But the conversations we hope to facilitate with this new model will generate a broader perspective on what we want to do, and consequently what we then can’t do.
Structural Feature 3
The third structural feature of our model is how we will allocate our funding within these three broad categories. The most challenging of these will be the third category, unit-level allocations, but I am pleased to say that we have made considerable progress on a thoughtful and well-articulated approach.
For our academic units this involves sources of revenue such as student credit hours, but our distributions also will be shaped by unit-level accomplishments in key strategic priorities including research; student success; faculty and staff development; outreach and local and global impact; advances in diversity, equity and inclusion; and the efficient use of funds. It also will include subsidies to units to address key aspects of their activities that don’t otherwise fit neatly into the model and to make sure they receive funding they need to continue as a valued part of our educational mission and campus community.
We will take a similar approach with our academic service units and ensure they have resources to provide services they are tasked to complete while also ensuring a portion of their funding is determined by the quality of those services.
Model Summary and Next Steps
There are a number of innovative features being considered in our model. Many of these features have been refined, and in some cases birthed out of the many conversations we have had in the past year within our leadership team and with many members of our campus community. As a result, we believe our new model will be clear, transparent, and influenced by your feedback, both in the development of the model and the annual application of it to determine budgets. It will provide leaders of our academic and academic service units the opportunity to be effective planners and strategic decision makers who are able to invest resources to fit the goals of their unit while also letting them be responsive to changing conditions.
With each campus budget conversation, I increasingly have pivoted from a deep review of our budget reduction toward the development of our new budget model. As a result, you already have been introduced to some of the early developments in the model. At our next campus budget conversation I will build on what I have shared previously and provide the most comprehensive overview to date of the new model. I am looking forward to sharing our progress and hearing your feedback.
Please join me at 11:30 a.m. this coming Tuesday, in Watson Library, 3 West. If you can’t be there in person, we’ve arranged for the meeting to be livestreamed and recorded as a webinar through Zoom. It is essential that we continue working with all of our community to build a stable and healthy KU – one that will be well-positioned to build meaningfully on its status as a premier state flagship public institution and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities.
News & Notes
The deadline for all faculty and staff to complete the Harassment/Discrimination, Sexual Misconduct/Violence Reporting Obligations online module is Thursday, Feb. 28. All KU employees are expected to complete the module every year. Log in to MyTalent.ku.edu to get started. Please allow about an hour to complete the training and set your browser to allow pop-up windows.
Congratulations to Professor of Film & Media Studies Kevin Willmott! He, along with Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel and David Rabinowitz, won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for their work on BlacKkKlansman.
I'm First Too posters are available for pick up at TRIO SES & STEM in Strong Hall 7. These posters highlight KU first-generation students, faculty, and staff who have excelled as role models, trailblazers, and advocates of first-generation student success.
Nominations to be a Staff Senate candidate will be accepted until Friday, March 1. Staff Senate has 21 open seats from several different job family categories. Elections will run from March 18-29. Faculty Senate is also accepting nominations through Monday, March 4. Ballots will be mailed to faculty the week of March 18.
Robert (Bob) DeYoung, Koch Distinguished Professor in Business Economics and Harold Otto Chair of Economics, has helped organize an international research and policy conference celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, which he co-edits. "Financial intermediation, regulation and economic policy: the 50th anniversary of the Journal of Money, Credit and Banking," hosted by the European Central Bank, will be March 28-29 in Frankfurt, Germany. DeYoung is serving as chair of a session about the future of financial intermediation and will co-present the opening remarks at the conference.
Faculty and staff can brush up on skills or learn something new through one of thousands of Linkedin Learning online courses available in the MyTalent System. Type in a topic in the Find Learning tile or click on the “Browse all courses” link to see what’s available.
Fundamental research is a vital component of university research and academic integrity. While this work allows collaborations across the globe, occasionally information generated through fundamental research is deemed sensitive and is subject to controls. The KU Office of Global Operations & Security (GOS) can help faculty and staff interpret and review contracts and grants to determine if research is fundamental or export controlled. The GOS monthly newsletter offers more on this important topic.
Hawk Route, a wayfinding system that mitigates KU’s iconic hills for individuals and families with mobility issues, was recently featured in the Higher Ed Workplace Blog of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.
The next International Coffee Hour, sponsored by International Support Services, will focus on Nigeria and run from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., Friday, March 1, at Watson Library. Coffee and snacks begin at 3; Presentation begins at 3:30. All are welcome.
DeAngela Burns-Wallace, vice provost for Undergraduate Studies, will take part in a panel discussion on using predictive analytics to improve student retention and progression at SXSW EDU on March 5. SXSW EDU, which precedes the larger SXSW Conference & Festival, brings together education and technology thought leaders from around the world.
The Commons has partnered with several campus offices and The Raven Bookstore to bring poet Hieu Minh Nguyen to Lawrence for a reading and book signing, at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 5, at Liberty Hall, 644 Massachusetts St. Hieu is the award-winning writer of “This Way to the Sugar” and “Not Here.” Tickets are free.
The Hall Center for the Humanities and The Commons present Harnessing Microbes Across Disciplines at 7 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 28, at The Commons in Spooner Hall. Panelists Sandor Katz, food writer, activist and Hall Center interdisciplinary scholar in residence; artist S.E. Nash; and Assistant Professor of Molecular Biosciences Josie Chandler, will discuss microbial populations, fermentation, research and artistic possibility. Katz also will present about his work in microbial realms and his passion for fermented foods at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 26, at Lawrence Public Library, 707 Vermont. Both events are free.
Human Resource Management is coordinating several financial planning and retirement planning presentations this week for faculty and staff. Many of the programs will be recorded for later viewing.
March 20 is the registration deadline to present at the annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, coordinated by the Center for Undergraduate Research. The symposium, on April 27 in the Kansas Union and Spooner Hall, lets students present their original work through oral presentations, artist’s talks and performances, poster presentations and displays of creative works. Graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, staff and faculty can sign up to serve as volunteers by March 29.
KU Information Technology has worked to give staff and faculty access to Adobe Spark to quickly create professional-grade graphics and videos. Access Adobe Spark through Adobe Creative Cloud or at spark.adobe.com using your KU credentials or a personal Adobe ID. Mobile versions of the Spark app are available through Google Play or the Apple App Store.
Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor