BY CATE STACKHOUSE
In March 2013, the University of Mary Washington began the process of Strategic Resource Allocation and will release a formal report with recommendations on May 1, 2014.
“From my perspective, there is a true collegiality to the project and a common goal of doing what is best for the entire university community,” said Rick Pearce, vice president of administration and finance.
According to the Office of the President “The goal is to look internally for resources that will be used to make UMW more distinctive through strategic investment in existing programs and/or the creation of new ones that increase our competitiveness.”
The project will enable strategic decisions to help strengthen programs and services offered at UMW. The goal is to enhance student satisfaction with the strengthened programs, according to Jonathan Levin, UMW provost.
“The project should help us identify strong areas that we want to make even stronger, as well as weak areas that either need more support or might be closed, combined with other programs or otherwise subject to adjustment or modification,” said Levin.
This will be done by examining current resources such as money, space, technology and people, so they can be prioritized. The overview of the allocation process, which can be found on the UMW website, indicates that all of the funding for investment must come from within the university.
Activities conducted by faculty in the form of classroom instruction, laboratory and other research, creative scholarship and service outside the institution are considered academic support.
Human resources, academic services, dean’s offices and committees such as University Faculty Council are considered non-academic support, according to the Office of the President.
For academics, departments are not getting examined, but the programs within them are. The Academic Task Force has a rubric for evaluating these programs includes nine different criteria to be measured: impact, justification and overall essentiality (20 percent), external demand (15 percent), internal demand (15 percent), quality of program inputs and processes (10 percent), quality of program outcomes, opportunity analysis (10 percent), productivity (10 percent), costs and expenses (five percent), and revenue and other resources generated (five percent).
The Support Task Force assesses non-academic support functions, which includes “any common set of activities that can be discretely measured, and consumes resources,” according to the Strategic Resource Allocation webpage.
The six criteria the Support Task Force uses are, importance to the institution, internal demand, external demand, quality, cost effectiveness and opportunity analysis.
When making decisions, there are protocols that committees must follow. A quorum consists of 80 percent of the task force (11 members). When a vote is required, 80 percent of the task force must be in agreement for the vote to carry. If a task force is stalled over a vote, it may utilize a fallback position of 75 percent (10 members).
“I believe the level of transparency has been outstanding,” said Pearce. “The website, emails and open forums, as well as upcoming training, have made the processes, tools and discussions available to anyone who wants to know what is happening.”
Levin said the Strategic Resource Allocation is necessary for academic planning.
“Strategic Resource Allocation, as it’s called, is an important part of the academic planning process,” said Levin. “We have, unfortunately, seen a steep decline in state financial support of higher education, and of Mary Washington more particularly, over the past decade or so.”
According to Levin, the university aims to keep tuition rates as low as possible with the hopes to keep Mary Washington affordable.
This adds pressure to make smart decisions about academic programs and the “support units” that contribute short and long term effectiveness, according to Levin.
“In academic planning, we rarely take as comprehensive a look at what we’re doing as Strategic Resource Allocation allows,” said Levin. “We have a lot of great ideas about new programs and new services we might offer students, but the challenge is how to pay for them, given our support for everything we’re currently doing and given the limited opportunities to generate new revenues to support these great ideas.”
According to Levin, Strategic Resource Allocation allows for a means to assess what the program is doing and determine how UMW can afford to enhance the programs in the current fiscal environment.
“Nothing has been cut at this time,” said Levin. “The process is designed to foster our discussion of what might be cut and, of course, such cuts would create funding to develop new program opportunities or to strengthen existing programs.”
Some students said they believe the Strategic Resource Allocation is a good idea as long as programs important to students are not cut.
“I think looking into the university’s finances is good,” said freshman Allison Hobgood. “As long as classes students need for their major or to graduate, and programs that are important to UMW students and help foster a sense of community are not cut.”
According to Julie Smith, associate controller and finance, the project is not ready to make changes yet.
“The task forces are still gathering information and will begin their analysis in a month or so,” said Smith. “The project is not at a point to determine what changes, if any, will be made.”