AAUP budget presentation claims UCCS invests too much in administration

The American Association of University Professors chapter at UCCS concluded that the university is not in a budget crisis following a budget analysis.

Rather, the AAUP budget analysis found that the crisis was simply that money was being over-invested in the administration on campus rather than the academics. They believe that if that money was redistributed, UCCS would not need to consistently make cuts in departments and lose valuable instructors.

The speakers noted that the numbers UCCS reported were often inconsistent and untrustworthy, which made pulling accurate conclusions difficult. Several numbers they pulled in their report differed from the analysis completed by the University Budget Advisory Comittee.

AAUP hired Howard Bunsis, who is a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, to conduct the budget analysis.

Karin Larkin — president of AAUP and associate professor and curator of anthropology

Larkin thinks it’s important to reframe the narrative of the constant budget crisis because the university has solid reserves, cash flows, bond ratings and manageable debt. Additionally, state funding has begun to improve in the past couple of years.

The main takeaways of this analysis were:

  • Real concerns with compliance of reporting data
  • Reframe the constant “budget crisis” narrative
  • The budget does not reflect a dedication to the academic mission
  • CU system lumps data together across all four campuses
  • IPEDS [Intergrated Postsecondary Education Data System] flagged multiple issues in UCCS data reporting
  • Impossible to make good budget decisions without accurate data

Larkin believes the university could generate more revenue through investment in academics. She noted UCCS should be investing more in faculty and curriculum since the university relies on tuition and student credit hours.

She expressed disappointment that the majority of the new buildings on campus include little to no instructional space. “We also recognize that we have a big deficit in classroom space on campus, back to this idea of instructional support, I feel like we might want to refocus our efforts there,” Larkin said.

Larkin also believes increasing retention and recruitment will help grow investments. “We’ve been investing a lot in our recruitment, but retention and recruitment are two sides of the same coin. It seems odd that there would be two separate vice chancellor offices that focus on the same sides of the same coin,” Larkin said.

John Harner — professor of geography

Harner spoke on the inconsistency of data reported by UCCS and how it is frequently entangled with the entire CU system.

“The narrative is less clear than we would hope it would be because the UCCS data is often unclear in these reports. We see wildly fluctuating numbers from year to year,” he said.

Harner stated that there were several important conclusions drawn from Bunsis’ evaluation.

  • UCCS appears to be in fairly stable financial condition.
  • UCCS has almost $29 million in restricted reserves, money that is designated to fund specific areas, and $58 million in unrestricted reserves.
  • UCCS debt has decreased each year since 2019.
  • UCCS assets have increased every year since 2013 (with the exception of 2018).
  • The university is not prioritizing its central mission: academics and instruction.
  • Only 42% of the budget goes to faculty, staff and academics.
  • There is an over-reliance on faculty who do not teach many classes and have low pay and low job security.
  • Since 2013, there has been a 64% increase in non-instructional positions with a 15% increase in instructional positions.
  • From 2013 to 2022, administration salaries were up 88.8% and faculty salaries were only up 48.2%.
  • From 2000 to 2016, administrator positions increased by 140% while faculty positions increased by 97% and tenure track faculty increased by 64%.

Harner believes in the importance of centering the academic mission because the faculty generate the most revenue for the college, therefore they should be the highest investment.

He gave an example of a class being taught by a lecturer with 20 freshmen who are all Colorado state residents. They would bring in around $27,000 in revenue, but the lecturer would only be paid $3,000 for that three-credit hour class.

Harner said revenue continues to grow and expand when factoring in classes with large sizes, out-of-state residents and upper-division students, and calculates in the fees rather than just tuition. However, faculty and staff members continue to be paid only a fraction of that revenue.

Harner called for better accountability for administrators. “Faculty are held accountable every year, right? We have our self-evaluations, but we don’t see that much about that for these big administrative positions. We never see any sort of assessment about how they are adding value,” Harner said.

Another major concern is that administrative salaries have increased significantly more than faculty salaries, and faculty salaries are not keeping up with inflation and the cost of living.

Harner believes that expansions should be adding new positions for faculty and staff, not administrative positions. Additionally, he believes the university should start looking at all positions when cuts need to be made, not just faculty and lecturers.

“Now we say we’re in crisis and what happens, they come to us and say, gotta cut your classes, you got to enroll more students in your classes, you know you got to lay off some instructors or whatever it may be.”

“We need to remind those making decisions and everybody that higher education is a public good. It’s not merely a transactional service that can be reduced to these cost efficiencies,” Harner said.

This is a two-part series on the state of the budget at UCCS. The next part will focus on the administrative perspective.

Photo from The Scribe Archives.