Texas Tech's Budget Working Group—What's it All About?
"Action expresses priorities."
Texas is a relative latecomer to the recession of 2008, but unfortunately our state has now reached a stage wherein revenues are not keeping up with the current and increasing needs of the state. Additionally, federal stimulus funds have all been allocated. The result: Our state faces a $10-18 billion shortfall in general revenue during the next biennium or FY12 and FY13. Higher education funding will probably not be immune from the effects of this shortfall; thus, it is incumbent on Texas Tech to plan and prepare for possible contingencies.
The good news: Texas Tech is growing in enrollment and research funding. Accordingly, there are favorable prospects for increased revenues. Further, our strong increase in weighted student credit hour production will ameliorate our losses from the state funding formula. None of this, however, is likely to offset completely the possible general revenue losses, so we need a planning framework to anticipate and adjust to possible future general revenue reductions.
Texas Tech University President Guy Bailey has charged Provost Bob Smith with chairing a large group of university stakeholders named the TTU Budget Working Group (BWG) to begin the planning. Through this paper, we offer: (1) information on the composition and charge to the BWG, including opportunities for the delineation of possible budget efficiencies as well as the exploration of sources of increased revenue during the next three to five years; (2) a description of the primary goal of the BWG, specifically the preparation of a white paper that will serve as a planning tool for Texas Tech as the Texas Legislature swings into action in the spring of 2011; (3) an indication of what other research and emerging research universities in Texas and elsewhere are doing to adjust to current and possible future budget cuts; (4) an indication of how the BWG will help build common understanding across the Texas Tech community regarding our fiscal makeup and our commitment, even in challenging times, to the university’s vision and mission and to the goals and strategies of the TTU Strategic Plan for 2010-2020 (Making it Possible . . .).
Composition and Change
Bailey appointed the BWG on July 19, 2010. The group is chaired by Smith and composed (see listing) of senior leaders in the university, including members of the President’s Administrative Council (PAC); the chancellor and provost offices; deans of all colleges, the School of Law, the Graduate School, and the Libraries; representatives from the university’s shared-governance bodies (i.e., Faculty and Staff Senates); faculty members affiliated with distinguished academic groups (i.e., Teaching Academy, Horn Professors); and elected representatives (Student Government Association [SGA]) among TTU students. The BWG has been charged with the following:
- Explore options for budget efficiencies
- Determine opportunities for revenue enhancements, including possible initiatives that may be vital to the long-term growth and development of the university, to offset possible reductions in general revenue funding
- Prepare a 10 to 20-page white paper summarizing the workings of the BWG and containing a set of recommendations to the president and the PAC on strategies, guidelines, priorities, and procedures for possible budget reductions during FY12 and FY13
- Transmit the BWG White Paper to the president by December 31, 2010
- Keep the entire TTU community apprised of the group’s efforts, including the scheduling and support of college- and university-based forums and other presentations, along with written summaries
The BWG White Paper as a Planning Tool
As a product of the BWG process, it is important to keep in mind what the presidential white paper is and is not. First—so there is no confusion—the BWG White Paper is neither a definitive plan nor a surrogate for the university’s strategic plan. Rather, the BWG White Paper is a planning tool—an instrument that offers possible options and directions for planning and action. It is also a tool that must be true to the vision, mission, strategic priorities, goals, and strategies of the TTU Strategic Plan for 2010-2020 (Making it Possible . . .). The white paper will also contain ideas on processes for implementation of budget reductions, should they be necessary, including changes in expenditure policies and procedures, reconfiguration of units, and personnel changes. All relevant recommendations should be in the context of similar planning-related efforts statewide and nationally.
Developing Recommendations in Context
A recent informal survey of provosts at research universities in Texas indicates that some of our peers are already actively involved in efforts parallel to those noted under the umbrella of the TTU BWG. Measures being invoked at our sister institutions include, among others, identification and trimming of redundancies in service units (e.g., business and information technology operations), outsourcing of services, design and implementation of retirement incentive plans, implementation and enforcement of differential faculty teaching loads, and development of long-range budget plans. All of these locally generated ideas will be considered, along with those readily accessible from out-of-state institutions that have had to face significant reductions in state resources. Of course, all ideas and recommendations must be placed in the context of our culture and situation at Texas Tech, including the movement of the university toward Responsibility Center Management (RCM) (Strauss and Curry 2002), which is already under development through the RCM Council, with plans for implementation in FY12.
To summarize, the BWG must interweave its efforts with the TTU community, all in the context of our state and nation.
Building Common Understanding
If the BWG White Paper is to have value, it must represent the thinking of the best minds at the university—faculty and staff members and students. Also, at various times during the course of the BWG’s efforts, feedback is likely to be received from alumni and other constituent groups served by Texas Tech. The advice from within and outside of the university will be of great value—particularly the insights of our faculty and staff members who are on what a colleague notes as the “front line.” Thus, we wish to emphasize that advice and feedback, assuming that it is constructive when critical, will be most welcome and will be considered seriously by the BWG in the course of its work.
The BWG began its work with a retreat this summer at which all BWG members representing financial units of the university (i.e., deans) were asked to share thoughts on budget reductions in general and particularly in the context of their specific units. After all presentations, proffered ideas were discussed, especially where individual concepts or proposals seemed to have applicability across units.
Beginning this fall, the BWG meetings, held once or twice monthly, will advance discussions and the drafting of the white paper noted above. This article, minutes from BWG meetings, and other materials are being posted on a website devoted to the BWG and its activities (Click here to view the BWG website). Members of the university community are invited to submit comments and suggestions to the BWG through the website. Before the end of the fall semester, Smith or other members of the BWG will be offering presentations and leading discussions in unit-based and all university forums to insure participation throughout the university community.
In summary, this document contains information on the composition and charge to the BWG, including opportunities for the group to describe possible budget efficiencies, as well as to explore and pursue ideas for possible increased sources of revenue during the next three to five years. We have also described the primary goal of the BWG, namely the preparation of a white paper that will serve as a planning tool for Texas Tech as the Texas Legislature swings into action during the spring of 2011. The white paper will also contain intelligence on what other research and emerging research universities in Texas and elsewhere are doing to adjust to current and possible future budget reductions. Finally, we considered the importance of the BWG in helping us build common understanding of financial challenges and possible remedies across the Texas Tech community.
We welcome your views and recommendations on this paper and other materials posted on the BWG website. Please consider writing to us through the BWG website’s comment submissions link. Your input will be highly valued.
Strauss, Jon C. and John R. Curry. Responsibility Center Management: Lessons from 25 Years of Decentralized Management. Annapolis, MD: National Association of College and University Business Officers, 2002.
Texas Tech University Strategic Plan, 2010-2020—Making it Possible . . .; http://www.ttu.edu/stratplan/docs/MakingItPossible-20102020StratPlan.pdf (July 8, 2010).
About the Authors
Guy Bailey serves as president and professor of English at Texas Tech University.
Bob Smith serves as provost and senior vice president and professor of chemistry at Texas Tech University.