September 24, 2002

C.U. Redistributes $20 Million for Academics

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University officials’ Sept. 5 decision to reallocate $20 million from nonacademic costs to academic priorities by 2005 signifies the newest effort to budget the University’s costs more efficiently. The initiative was a recommendation from the Workforce Planning Team, a committee aimed at identifying cost-saving techniques within major administrative areas across campus.

A nine-month hiring freeze was lifted in June and the Team was assembled to devise more long-term cost-saving strategies.

“The financial health of the University remains strong,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III in a Cornell news release. “This strength has allowed us to continue to invest significant resources in our institutional and unit-specific strategic priorities.”

Despite its financial strength, the University faces budget constraints in the next several years, said Carolyn Ainslie, vice president for planning and budget in the release.

“Endowment payouts are likely to remain flat, resources from the state of New York have decreased and are expected to decrease further, tuition increases must remain modest and giving levels are uncertain due to the current state of the economy,” she said in the release. The endowment payout is a small portion of invested donated money that the University uses to operate.

To provide necessary resources to academic and institutional priorities, a significant amount of money will need to be reallocated, according to Rawlings.

“As financial stewards, we must ensure that we use the available resources in the most effective and efficient manner possible to fulfill the institution’s academic mission and priorities,” he said in the release.

The $20 million reallocation will come from costs that “don’t directly hit at teaching, research or public service,” according to Paul Streeter, the Workforce Planning Team’s senior project director. Central and local units, such as the individual colleges, will reallocate money used for nonacademic activities such as facilities maintenance, report preparation, information technology support and finance management in order to fund programs associated with academics and student life.

The $20 million represents approximately 1.4 percent of the University operating budget and 5 percent of total salaries and benefits for nonacademic staff, according to Ainslie.

Rawlings, Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin and Harold Craft, vice president for administration and chief financial officer, made the decision to reallocate the money with the help of the Workforce Planning Team.

“[The team] reviewed whether the [$20 million] goal was reasonable and achievable,” Streeter said. The responsibility of finding the money will fall to college deans and other administrators.

Headed by Ainslie, the Workforce Planning Team has been reviewing major administrative areas to identify ways in which to integrate them across campus and cut costs, according to Streeter. According to Rawlings, the plan to dissolve the College of Architecture, Art and Planning is not part of the Workforce Planning Team’s initiative.

The team’s reviews and subsequent recommendations will result in a decrease in the number of the University staff members, according to Streeter.

“It will mean a combination of both decreasing staff numbers and having staff performing different tasks,” he said.

The team is currently reviewing the areas of human resources, finance and alumni affairs. It will begin reviewing facilities, information technology and student activities soon, according to Streeter.

The team has not yet come to any definitive decisions on how to cut costs, according to Streeter.

“Within the administrative areas there is room for improvement and possible efficiency in providing shared support,” Streeter said.

To increase efficiency within human resources, for example, the team has recommended that the University give Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources, responsibility over human resources activities on campus. Currently, individual organizations manage their own human resources activities.

“The specific implementation of the plan is not clear,” Streeter said.

Archived article by Stephanie Hankin