February 11, 2010

Fuchs Explains Proposal for Massive Overhaul of Budget

Print More

Cornell is on the brink of historic decisions as its infrastructure undergoes a massive restructuring, and nothing is more integral to the University’s strategic plan than its budget, officials say.

“What you hear today will change Cornell more than everything else,” Provost Kent Fuchs told Cornell community members gathered in Statler Auditorium yesterday evening for a public forum on the Budget Model Task Force, part of the Reimagining Cornell initiative to improve the University while using fewer resources.

At the discussion — the last of six public discussions regarding selected task force reports — Cornell administrators presented ways to make the budget more efficient, explaining that the next step will be working out the specific implementation of these general plans.

The task force, led by Paul Streeter, associate vice president of planning and budget, and Cathy Dove, associate dean of administration for the College of Engineering, proposed that the University use a single budget model, instead of the current standard of multiple budget systems.

“We must treat like activities in a like manner,” Streeter said. Such common expenditures like maintenance and various space costs should be streamlined, according to the budget task force.

Under this system, Cornell would pool all undergraduate tuition — $423 million gross tuition and unrestricted financial aid of $136 million — and then redistribute the funds to the seven colleges as the central administration saw fit.

“We need to make sure the things are owned at an institutional level and then distributed back out,” Streeter said.

Barbara Knuth, senior associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, voiced concern regarding how such a plan would affect the University’s ability to fulfill its commitments as a land-grant institution if undergraduate tuition were combined and redistributed.

“Being a land-grant institution is part of Cornell’s heritage and we remain committed to it,” Fuchs said.

Knuth was also concerned about the logistical implications of a plan that would attempt to equalize different colleges with very different courses of study.

“As we look at undergraduate tuition, we see that there are fundamental differences in colleges … The typical course in CALS is three credits and a course with the same level of intensity in another college could be deemed a four credit class. Different colleges also have different credit hour requirements.”

In response to Knuth, Cathy Dove explained that the task force laid out the general blueprints but such “complex” issues would be handled by the “implementation team.”

Another proposed change involves a 10 to 15 percent tax on revenue on such institutional enterprises as executive education, dining and housing. No changes to the budget model, however, will increase or decrease the University’s revenue. Instead, the budget aims to use incoming money more efficiently.

While Ian Schachner, interim director of ILR undergraduate admissions, praised the transparency of the Reimagining Cornell process thus far, he expressed hope to see such efforts continue even as the administration proceeds with the implementation of many of the proposals. Schachner further expressed dismay with the low attendance at the public discussion.

“I would hope for a greater turnout when discussing what the Provost says will change Cornell more than everything else,” Schachner said.

The event drew about 60 members of the Cornell community and lasted from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m. Attendance at public forums has ranged from 60 to 200 people, according to the staff that organize these events.

Reimagining Cornell’s next public forum will be held Feb. 24 at 4:30 p.m. in Biotech G-10 and will discuss Cornell’s strategic plan.

Original Author: Sam Cross