Increased budget allows smaller tuition increases

The Daily News




An increase in state funding for Ball State will make it easier for the university to keep tuition increases under 2 percent for the next two years, following the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s recommendation for public schools.


Bernie Hannon, Ball State associate vice president of business affairs and assistant treasurer, said the university takes the commission’s non-binding recommendations seriously. Ball State is required by state law to hold a public forum on tuition, which will take place by the end of the month.


Ball State was facing an $11.4 million cut in state funding when the higher education commission made its original budget recommendations to the Indiana General Assembly. But after the state added money to higher education, Ball State is receiving $6.7 million more in state funding, the first increase since 2008-09.


“I want to thank our legislators for their hard work,” President Jo Ann Gora said in her newsletter. “While we still have significant financial challenges that need to be addressed, this is indeed a positive step in the right direction. The legislators have a difficult task balancing diverse needs throughout the state. Their support of the university is crucial, and I’m so pleased that we continue to inspire their confidence.”


The commission recommended no more than a 3 percent increase for the previous two years, but Ball State raised tuition 3.9 percent and 4.9 percent after losing $11.8 million in state funding.


The university received 0.6 percent less funding for operating appropriations in 2013-14. It recovered the difference when the state increased funding by $4.1 million for each year to the Entrepreneurial University line item, or specific capital request.


The additional money is restricted in use, but Hannon said the line item is broad enough that it shouldn’t hurt Ball State when it begins preparing the university’s budget.


“It would be nice if it was all 100 percent unrestricted operating money, but the fact that it is restricted probably isn’t going to hurt us any this biennium,” he said.


Compared to other institutions operating budgets, Ball State is still behind. Indiana University Bloomington and Purdue University in West Lafayette received 2.5 percent and 4.7 percent increases respectively.


The state also green-lit $30 million for Ball State’s geothermal project and $12.2 million to complete renovation of Applied Technology Building and the second phase of the Central Campus project.


Ball State has struggled with performance-based funding because of the formula the commission uses when it makes recommendations. Gora argued in her presentation to the Indiana Senate Appropriations Committee that the formula rewards large and growing institutions, which is a strategy Ball State hasn’t chosen.


Jason Dudich, associate commissioner and chief financial officer of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, said the formula is designed to benefit the state.


“That’s the great thing about performance funding,” Dudich said. “The formula isn’t supposed to benefit one or two institutions, it’s supposed to align with the state’s goals. One thing you may hear if you talk to other institutions is, ‘Well, the formula doesn’t benefit us.’ The formula is meant to benefit the state.”


Data in 2012 shows Ball State’s degree production is improving, and Dudich credits that to the strategy Ball State is taking.


“We believe that there is going to be improvement because of the steps President Jo Ann Gora is taking and the type of students that they’re bringing in,” he said. “I ask this question, if I fast forward a biennium or two from now and they’re doing very well, then they should be making the same argument. And I don’t think they would be. I think there is a lot of opportunity to improve.”


Hannon said he thinks Ball State will do better in the future, but flexibility in the metrics and the data that’s used by the commission makes it difficult to predict. 


Even if Ball State improves in performance metrics, Hannon said he still would like to see the formula reward quality institutions, even if they aren’t large and growing.


“You always want to think that however our state chooses to fund higher education, [it does] it in a way that makes the most sense,” Hannon said. “I think a lot of us feel like we really ought to have a system that rewards quality and rewards improving institutions that want to get better, not just bigger.”

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