University budget team responds to third-party analysis, notes possible budget changes

Reports from the university’s budget team conflict with a third-party analysis, which claimed UCCS was over-investing in administration and also raised concerns about budget transparency.

Chair of the University Budget Advisory Committee Christina Jimenez said that UBAC shares similar goals with the American Association of University Professors, the organization who conducted the third-party budget analysis, despite having conflicting data reports.

While she expects that the number of administrators and their salaries have increased over time, Jimenez said there’s good reason for it.

“This campus has invested in areas of administration based on requests of faculty, staff and students to have more information,” Jimenez said. “We need these offices. We need this administrative support to make the university function effectively.”

AAUP’s budget analysis reported numbers that differed in several areas from numbers reported by UBAC. Jimenez said this could be due to AAUP’s analysis referencing older data.

“The data that we use at UBAC is generated directly by our UCCS budget office here on campus. Our own budget office has data that is more precise and up to date than the data reported from the AAUP since the IPEDS [Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System] data used in the AAUP analysis was from 2022, I believe,” Jimenez said.

One conclusion drawn from the AAUP’s analysis was that only 42% of the budget goes to faculty, staff and academics. Kathy Kaoudis, vice chancellor of administration and finance, said this conclusion was inaccurate.

According to Kaoudis, 54 cents of every dollar of the budget goes toward instructional costs with around 20 cents going toward academics.

Another concern brought up by the budget analysis was compliance in reporting budget data.

Jimenez said there are multiple levels of compliance required for the budget office’s reporting since UCCS is a public university. She noted it’s common for IPEDS information to not be up to date for many universities.

Despite getting conflicting data, Jimenez believes UBAC and AAUP can work together. AAUP sent them a list of questions and thoughts that shared common interests with UBAC, so they are partnering up in the future.

“We’re really excited to partner with them to help bring transparency around what our budget is and our exact budget situation,” Jimenez said.

Budget transparency is a goal that UBAC and AAUP share, as well as many other groups on campus. Jimenez said the Faculty Assembly Executive Committee, Faculty Assembly Committee on the Budget and Staff Association Leadership have all asked that processes surrounding the budget be more transparent and responsive to feedback.

Jimenez said that UCCS Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet has been working to address concerns around budget transparency. Under Sobanet’s leadership, Jimenez said she has been given “an extraordinary amount of information about budget numbers.”

Budget changes, tuition increases and increases to minimum wage

At their Feb. 27 meeting, UBAC discussed several budget scenarios and possible changes that could be made to the budget.

There are three budget scenarios in discussion:

  • Scenario A aligns with the governor’s request of a 2.5% tuition increase for resident students and a 4% tuition increase for non-resident students.
  • Scenario B proposes a 4% increase for resident students.
  • Scenario C proposes a 2% increase for resident students.
  • Both Scenario B and C propose a 4% increase in tuition for non-resident students.

The Board of Regents will approve one of these scenarios at their meeting in April once the university receives a final number for how much state support it will receive.

Decisions surrounding budget cuts for next year’s budget are being made as a team. “We asked each dean and each vice chancellor to come back with what they thought they could cut without hurting the operations in their area,” Kaoudis said. “We’re working as a team on this, rather than each unit balancing individually to a number that I would dictate.”

Despite concerns that this new process would be ineffective, Kaoudis said the results have been promising because people are being receptive and have come up with promising proposals.

A raise in student minimum wage to $15.50 has also been built into the budget for next year. UBAC is looking into several possibilities to also give raises to faculty and staff to account for inflation, but Jimenez said that means cutting the budget somewhere else.

Possible budget changes that the UBAC looked into include:

  • A possible raise for faculty and staff through a 1.5% merit increase and a 0.75% increase for the salary adjustment pool, which addresses a lack of equity in salaries.
  • Focusing salary increases for faculty and staff who make below a certain threshold and giving less of an increase or no increase to higher earning faculty and staff.
  • Offering early retirement incentives.
  • Reorganizing certain offices to save costs and increase efficiency as well as using faculty resources and expertise instead of hiring externally. For example, the university would start offering faculty a stipend to assist with hiring positions like deans and vice chancellors rather than hiring a search firm.

Photo via The Scribe Archives.