Ball State's telecommunications department, second largest in the university in terms of enrollment, has spent the majority of this year doing what some college students have become experts at -- borrowing money.
The department has spent its entire supply and equipment budget for the 2001-2002 school year, Department Chair Joe Misiewicz said, and may need to borrow money from provost and vice president of Academic Affairs Warren Vander Hill's discretionary budget for the duration of the academic year.
Scott Olson, dean of the College of Communication Information and Media, said the lack of funds is due to necessary equipment repairs and replacements that should be expected throughout the course of any academic year rather than any mismanagement of funds.
Olson said the past two years, in particular, have stretched the department's budget thin due to age-related repairs to some of TCOM's older equipment.
Several faculty members, including Olson and Misiewicz, have suggested that Ball State's budget allocation system, one where departmental funding for one academic year is based on a gradual increase or decrease of the previous year's level rather than the number of majors and minors enrolled, is at fault for the apparent lack of funds -- a situation President Blaine Brownell said he vows to change during his administration.
"We need either a model or set of guidelines about how funding is going to be reallocated more in the direction of student demand," Brownell said.
Currently, the school's historical based budgeting system does not allow for increases in spending per department due to growing enrollment. Therefore some densely populated majors, such as telecommunications, receive a much lower per-student allocation of funds than other, less popular majors.
Thomas Kinghorn, vice president of Business Affairs and treasurer, said that variations in funding between different departments within the University are "very well justified" because some, such as English, teach a variety of core courses required of every student for graduation and others, such as Biology, require more expensive equipment than some lecture-based disciplines like Philosophy.
Kinghorn, as well as Vander Hill, said departments that offer such core courses should and do receive more funds than those that don't.
However, according to the Office of Institutional Research's fall 2000 Data, the departments teaching the most hours of student credit during the fall semester -- English and History -- actually did not receive the highest budget allocations for the following academic year.
The English department, which logged a total 19,600 student credit hours, received the second-highest budget allocation for 2001-2002 whereas the Department of History, which taught 14,814 credit hours, received the fifth-highest allocation.
Other departments, such as Communication Studies, show an even greater disparity between student credit hours and level of funding.
Communication Studies, which houses a required public speaking course and logged 6,584 student credit hours during fall of 2000, received a budget allocation of $638,320 for the 2001-2002 academic year -- placing it 36th in terms of overall funding rank.
Brownell said such a blatant mismatch between student credit hours, enrollment and overall funding suggests the university needs to reallocate funds in a manner that will reflect student growth in certain areas -- and decline in others.
"If you have a consistent pattern of enrollment growth in certain areas that is probably a mirror image of a decline in certain other areas," he said. "You simply have to provide more funding for those areas (with increasing enrollment)."
Brownell said he favors a more flexible budget model which may take funds from departments showing decline in enrollment over a two or three year period and shift them to those showing an increase.
He said that improving communication between all involved in the budgeting process will ease such a transition.
Brownell did not say when exactly he hopes to develop a new budget model. He did, however, say that any such model will not fix all of Ball State's financial difficulties.
"None of the mechanisms that we use to allocate funds internally are going to produce more funds," Brownell said.
He also said he plans to "keep pushing" the change.
"We don't have the rest of our natural lives to do this," Brownell said.