CORVALLIS - Oregon State University has embarked on a major redesign of its academic programs and support services, and the campus community got its first look on Thursday at the conceptual framework that will guide the planning process over the next few months.
The redesign initiative has many goals, according to Tim White, OSU provost and executive vice president. The most notable include increasing the value of OSU's teaching, research and outreach activities, attracting additional resources from a variety of sources, reducing inefficient process, and ensuring a financially sustainable university, he said.
"This is not a case of the university designing a new organizational chart to simply address a budget shortfall," White said. "There is a realization that our current budget model is not sustainable. There also is a growing recognition that we could be creating a greater impact in virtually every area in which the university is involved - first and foremost being the education of our students.
"Creating a new concept for a university under an inefficient, archaic budget model just won't work," White added. "So the first step in the redesign process, by necessity, has involved looking at how we generate funds and allocate resources."
For the past several weeks, a leadership team comprised of the university's academic deans, leading administrators, and the presidents of the OSU Faculty Senate and Associated Students of OSU have grappled with how the university can redesign itself to have a greater impact, while at the same time facing budget constraints that have identified a budget shortfall of $19 million for the 2001-02 fiscal year.
Though the university finished the 2000-01 fiscal year with a positive balance, and has balanced its budget for the 2001-02 fiscal year, the pattern of rising costs and restricted revenues portend a difficult economic forecast for 2002-03, and are forcing the university to address budgeting and redesign issues on an accelerated timetable.
The budget realities will require layoffs from the university, White said, and the process to identify positions and deal respectfully with individuals in accordance with university procedures is under way. It is too early to know the magnitude of layoffs required, he added.
A budget team has proposed an innovative budgeting approach for the 2002-03 Education and General budget for which planning already is under way. The group is proposing for discussion a new budget model that will allocate the university's General and Education fund dollars in an approximate 60/40 split, with 60 percent of those dollars going to academic program delivery and support of instruction, and 40 percent going to university enhancement efforts, such as campus technology, physical plant operations, library support and general administration.
Those funds going directly to instruction would be based primarily on productivity, according to Clara Pratt, interim dean of the College of Home Economics and Education and co-chair of the budget group.
"It is proposed that about three-fourths of those funds will go directly to the units that generate them, based on student credit hours and the Resource Allocation Model," Pratt said. "That is a significant departure from our current model, which is based more on history and tradition than a rational philosophy. Right now, our allocation isn't clear and it isn't visible. It's a source of frustration on- and off-campus."
Pratt said the remaining 25 percent of the academic funds will go toward programs that are critical to OSU's missions, yet may not generate the same productivity-based revenue.
"It's clear that the university needs some flexibility to invest in priority programs and to be able to create, and respond to opportunities," she added.
The new budget model will be refined during the next few weeks before it is finalized in the spring, White said. And though the budget isn't driving the overall redesign process, understanding the new framework will help OSU's faculty, staff and students to understand "the boundaries of these parallel processes."
"For the past several months, this leadership team has worked to provide a framework for how the university will address the redesign process and advance some concepts for broad deliberation," White said. "Now it is time to engage the faculty, staff and students, as well as our external constituents, for their ideas on how we can do things better. We anticipate a robust and yet timely process to occur over the next several month, with decisions and implementation of various elements to occur toward the end of the academic year."
Ron Adams, dean of the College of Engineering and co-chair of the leadership team's redesign subgroup, said he hopes the input will focus not just on operational nuts-and-bolts, but how the university can have a greater impact in several areas. Among those, he said, are:
- Producing more informed and creative students;
- Contributing to Oregon's vital economic sectors;
- Helping the region have more productive and sustainable natural resources;
- Contributing to healthy environments and livable communities.
"The University Honors College is one example of how OSU has changed in the last few years to have a greater impact," Adams said. "It has played a key role in our ability to attract some of Oregon's brightest students and engage them in new and exciting ways. If we apply that same kind of thinking to all areas of the university, there is no telling what our faculty, staff and students can create."
White said OSU will initiate a comprehensive process that engages individuals "throughout the rich and diverse fabric of the university."
For example, he said, the university plans to establish at least four separate design teams that will focus on different areas of the university: academic programs, academic and student services, research and external relations, and institutional management. These teams also will interact with multiple other special interest groups, as well as the existing budget and communication teams. The overall effort will be guided, coordinated and supported by the university's redesign group.
"What we are looking for goes beyond looking at a new academic structure," White said. "We seek the best ideas possible on what kind of things we could do to make the student learning experience greater. We invite ideas on how the curriculum could become more powerful and on how we can eliminate unnecessary expense in every area. We want ideas on how OSU can have a greater influence in every community and on every economic sector in Oregon. And we want ideas on how to generate new sources of revenue that will make us more relevant and sustainable."