Strategic Resource Allocation Underway at NMU

With state funding and student enrollment in decline, managing limited resources has become critical for NMU and many other institutions of higher learning. To help NMU address budget and planning for the future, the administration has hired consultant Larry Goldstein from Campus Strategies. Goldstein was on campus from January 31-February 1 to hold several Strategic Resource Allocation sessions for faculty and staff.

Larry Goldstein addresses a session in the Ontario Room of the UC on February 1.

Goldstein is a certified public accountant who worked as a tax associate with Touche Ross & Company and later served as the chief financial officer at the University of Louisville. Goldstein’s model for strategic resource allocation is based, to some degree, on the work of Dr. Robert Dickeson who’s book Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services has been used by hundreds of colleges.

During the February 1, session from 12-3 pm, Goldstein began with a ten
minute Q & A with audience members. He then launched into the program he summed up as “reducing and redirecting resources.”

He began with an assumption, based on the Dickeson model, that higher education adds programs but rarely subtracts them, and that universities try to be too many things to all people. He also feels across the board cuts do not work. In other words, “Fair does not mean equal,” said Goldstein. Programs within this framework are defined as any major, sports team or service that requires resources (not just academic programs). “People are resources,” said Goldstein.

A group of about 45 faculty and staff attended the 12-3 session on February 1.

The process Goldstein has used at other universities includes the creation of two task forces. Goldstein recommends the Academic Task Force be made up of 75% faculty and 25% middle management (no higher than department head). The Support Task Force should be comprised of 25% faculty and 75% staff. “We don’t want upper management in the room, we want lower level people to contribute to the process,” said Goldstein.

Once the task forces are assembled, they will be charged with putting a “program” into one of five categories: 1) candidate for enhanced resources; 2) continue with current resources; 3) continue with reduced resources; 4) requires transformation; and 5) candidate for phase-out: subject to additional review by senior leadership.

The criteria the respective task forces will be using will likely come from a template of ten criteria including “What negative consequences would take place if a program were to be phased out?” For a complete list of these criteria, go to the 13:00 mark of the 12-3 session on Feb 1. You can find it at http://bit.ly/2kAptC6.

While the process will be based largely on a snapshot of where all of these programs are right now, Goldstein cautioned against using just one year as a means of evaluating programs. For instance, a department might have purchased a new piece of expensive equipment in one year, and this would make it look more costly in that one year when the average cost is much lower over ten years.

Goldstein covered eight items that lead to successful resource allocation. At the top of the list was transparency. “Credible participants are essential for the process to be trusted. Transparency is also critical, ninety percent of you are going to judge the process as soon as you see the list of who is on the two task forces. Not on person should be appointed to the task force by virtue of their title,” said Goldstein.

While Goldstein’s model has sizeable faculty involvement, he strongly recommended that non-tenured faculty not be placed on the task forces. He feels the service required in this process will take time away from the other demands of earning tenure. He also felt they would be exposed to potential retribution when they go up for tenure if they were part of a task force that recommended eliminating programs affecting faculty members who might be sitting on promotion and tenure review committees.

Goldstein also cited eight reasons the process fails. This included “Sacred Cows” and “Corrupt Data.” He did indicate that departments would have the opportunity to review data that is being used to represent them in order to verify numbers on major counts and other critical data are not way off. However, he said departments will not get to see their ultimate score based on the criteria.

Goldstein estimated the process will take 7-12 months to complete, and he said the task forces would work intermittently during the summer and complete its work by the end of the fall semester.

The ultimate goal is create what Goldstein calls an opportunity analysis that can help guide the university toward initiating new programs, augmenting successful programs and phasing out under performing programs.

Again, to view the sessions, you can go to http://bit.ly/2kAptC6

You can nominate yourself or a colleague by clicking here.

 

 

 

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