The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

The Editorially Independent Voice of The University of Akron

The Buchtelite

Following the paper trail

“Many University of Akron students thought they would never see a year like 2007. In the coming months, administrators are prepared to announce that tuition will not increase like in previous years. I’m surprised it’s not going up anymore, said Don Fridley, a senior majoring in criminal justice.”

Many University of Akron students thought they would never see a year like 2007.

In the coming months, administrators are prepared to announce that tuition will not increase like in previous years.

I’m surprised it’s not going up anymore, said Don Fridley, a senior majoring in criminal justice. That is nice.

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Still, students often ask where the dollars from their checks, loans or scholarships end up.

The university brought in $135.7 million on student tuition and fees alone in fiscal year 2006, which is from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. Then throw in another $214 million of revenue from grants, state appropriations, auxiliary enterprises (such as Student Union food sales) and private donations.

That’s a total of about $350 million to make the university work.

How UA divies money

The university divided about $113 million among its colleges in 2006. F. John Case altered the budgeting plan when he took over as CFO at UA, which was a year and a half ago. Each dean makes a presentation to a budgeting committee in February. The committee then decides how much of that $113 million it will allocate to each college.

In the past, deans would present budget requests in writing. Substitute that with an American Idol-like contest where a dozen deans compete against each other for a bigger piece of the pie.

It’s stressful, but easier to get your point across, said Dale Mugler, the Honors College dean. When I do it, I try to get some fundamental points across.

Mugler’s presentation this year on the Honors College’s wave of incoming students. In 2000, the college welcomed 150 new students. Last year, the figure tripled.

The Honors College received $614,041 in 2006. Mugler said a 10 percent increase would allow him to hire a full-time scholarship fundraiser. The Orr family, for which Orr Hall was named, recently donated $5 million for a scholarship endowment. The new position, in theory, would find more Orr families.

With such a proposal for a new position, the budgeting committee asks several questions about the necessity for spending public dollars on it.

It’s a good conversation, Case said. I wouldn’t say it’s grilling.

For the most part, however, the departments have the same money to spend as last year.

Colleges get whatever they got last year with minor adjustments, said Dale O. Walker, assistant to the College of Nursing dean.

Minor adjustments meant a 5 percent budget drop for the College of Nursing in 2005. The university cut the nursing salary allocation by nearly $300,000.

The amount of money our college receives is critical to the quality of our programs, Walker said. In recent years, there have been mostly decreases.

So what’s first on the chopping block during a budget crunch?

Very little of the college budget is flexible, Walker said. First cuts are to travel dollars, but this represents about $30,000 or 0.5 percent. The second most flexible dollars are the part-time and summer faculty salary budgets, which are now reaching $700,000. The problem is we need these people to maintain our current enrollments.

When you get right down to it, we can’t afford to cut anything.

But with its skyrocketing enrollment, the Honors College is riding high. The university uses it to draw the brightest students in Northeast Ohio to downtown Akron.

That helps in front of the budgeting committee.

I think we do get some favorable feelings, Mugler said.

That’s just one example of how all colleges are not treated equally. An examination into how much money each college receives, compared to how many credit hours it instructs, can give a picture of the university’s agenda.

The prestigious College of Polymer Science and Engineering receives $4,783 for each credit hour of instruction its students take. The other side of that spectrum is the College of Arts & Sciences, which obtains just $353 for each credit hour taught (see chart below).

Of course, one must take into account that researching nanofibers is more expensive than explaining Shakespeare. Also, Arts & Sciences professors are more likely to be nontenure track (which means lower salaries) than Polymer Science professors.

Salaries: a main contention

Of the $113 million that UA’s colleges eventually spend, a vast majority goes to faculty and staff salaries. It makes sense, then, that both UA and Kent State University were so cautious in awarding raises when bargaining new contracts with their professors’ unions the past two years.

Contract negotiations have continued to proceed at a ‘snail’s pace,’ primarily because the university administration chose to take an adversarial approach, John Hebert, UA’s faculty union president, said at the time of the dispute.

And that was one of the tamer things said about Proenza’s approach to the negotiations. The union held rallies in 2006 outside Buchtel Hall, where some members implored passers-by to call Proenza’s office to tell him how they feel.

Eventually, the sides agreed.

It’s a brand new contract, Case said, so there’s a lot of variables in it, but it should cost the university about $3 to $4 million.

However, many people in academia will contend that spending money on quality, coveted professors is what separates good programs from average ones.

The main key to student success is quality faculty and you can’t attract quality faculty unless you pay reasonable salaries, Walker said.

Salaries account for 92 percent of the College of Nursing’s budget. Even the Honors College, which pays only two full-time faculty, has a staff-dominated budget.

Operating costs are not nearly as high, Mugler said.

Administrators’ salaries

For all the discussion about professor salaries, administrators earn significantly more. Proenza’s 26 vice presidents and associate vice presidents earn a combined $3 million per year. The president earns just more than $300,000.

Although it’s not necessarily fair, the university has little choice if it wants competent administrators, Case said.

There is a market out there, he said. Some people come here based on that market. We’re competing for the best at all levels.

And this administration certainly has difficult tasks asked of it. For example, they are struggling to find a way to offset skyrocketing costs of utilities and employee benefits.

That is the only reason UA is a tad leery of Gov. Strickland’s tuition freeze.

We want to be a part of his plans, Case said. Limiting our part of the budget is not quite what we want, but I think he did a good job.

To sweeten the deal for universities, the state will increase its funding by 5 percent next year and 2 percent in 2009. The proposal, of course, requires a tuition freeze this year and a maximum 3 percent increase in 2008. The final provision is that state universities cut 1 percent of their budget in each year.

This plan goes in stark contrast to former Gov. Bob Taft’s administration. During those eight years, the state was mostly to blame for tuition increases.

For example, state funding fell by $1 million last year. That meant UA officials were forced to either raise tuition or make cuts.

In fact, between 1999 and 2004, state funding dropped $10.8 million. The correlation is clear, as those cuts have caused UA’s tuition to increase an average of 9 percent a ye
ar the past decade. The maximum allowed by state law is 9.9 percent.

In 2005 and 2006, UA was relatively kind to its students, bumping tuition 6 percent each year, which is less than the maximum, but still double the rate of inflation.

The university still may raise fees. Tuesday, it announced housing will jump 4 percent and board will go up 6 percent.

Regardless of where the university’s money goes, one thought reigns universally with UA students: It’s great to take a break from tuition increases.

Now I won’t be in more debt, said Ashley Fire, a senior psychology major, like extreme debt.

To discuss the university’s finances or read PDF versions of its budgets, visit and its message boards.

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