On the Budget: Looking at the Data
— Philip Yannella, Professor of English and American Studies
Several months ago, doing some research on current American college campus life, I began to look at the operating budgets of a few universities, including Temple’s. Some college budgets are hard to access. Temple’s is not because for several decades the University, complying with its agreement with the faculty union, has annually placed a copy of its budget in the Conwellana- Templana special collections room located on the Mezzanine of Paley Library.
In recent weeks, the University has begun to face the likelihood that its appropriation from the State of Pennsylvania will be severely cut. Last year, the appropriation was $178 million; this year, we could lose 10%, 20% or perhaps even 30% off that figure. With that turn of events, my research on budgets and college campus life perhaps took on more immediate interest.
In these first stages of crisis, consultants have been hired to help the University prepare for budget cutting, and faculty members and others have been invited to provide their ideas for building revenues and suggesting efficiencies. Some cuts have already been proposed by faculty members (e.g., let’s close this campus, let’s close that campus, let’s fire the highest paid administrators, let’s close this or that department, and so forth). None of the faculty talk I have heard so far about cutting the budget utilizes budget data. That is astonishingly ironic and peculiar given that empiricism is supposed to prevail in universities.
On January 24, during a forum on the budget and then during a Faculty Senate meeting, I asked Administration representatives if they would send out a pdf file of the 2009-2010 “Budget Detail” so that faculty and others could properly inform themselves. I gather that that is not going to happen. I next hoped that the Faculty Herald would publish the President’s and Provost’s areas of the “Budget Detail” in this issue. But I now understand that is not going to happen either. I hope that someone will publish it soon because, as I said, the information it contains will be very helpful for people who wish to speak intelligently about the impending crisis.
I have tried to read the “Budget Detail” carefully, and I have created a draft spreadsheet that can be accessed by clicking here. It arranges expenditures from the University “Budget Detail” in columns to produce a number of snapshots that suggest where we are currently and, perhaps, what can or ought to be cut. I focused my attention on three topics. The first sheet focuses on the considerable amount of money allocated in the budget to food, travel, and entertainment as well as the even more considerable amount of money allocated to the loose category of “Other General Expenses.” The second sheet focuses on the amount of money allocated to non-faculty salaries. The third sheet focuses on the money allocated to instruction; it includes fulltime faculty, chair stipends, part time faculty, graduate student instructors-of-record, teaching assistants, and research assistants. Instructional compensation in the current budget totals some $201 million. Non-instructional compensation totals $89 million.
My spreadsheet is a draft. It may contain inaccuracies because I had to transpose a great many numbers from the “Budget Detail.” I may have missed some numbers or put some in inappropriate categories. I have checked it for accuracy a number of times. But, to repeat, it is a draft, not a finished product that has been reviewed by others.
The total Temple operating budget without the Hospital is about $868 million, so the President’s and Provost’s areas are a fraction of the whole. I have not tried to analyze the budgets of such big-ticket items as computing, finance, facilities, student housing, student life, and campus safety. I have, though, looked carefully at two major items that were out of the Provost’s and President’s areas. The two were printed at the end of the “”Budget Detail.” One is titled “Executive Compensation,” the other is titled “University Contingency.”
I have developed opinions about budget cutting at Temple in these tough times. Here is a list of items I think we should look at closely if in fact a budget crisis becomes real:
• $5.3 million in food, travel, and entertainment (not including team travel and housing expenses in the budget of Intercollegiate Athletics).
• $8.7 million in “Other General Expenses.” As I understand the term, “Other General Expenses” gives flexibility to budget unit heads. Flexibility may be a great thing -- but not in a crisis.
• $319,486 allocated to “Team Holiday Living Expense” and $305,700 for “Administration overload stipend” in the “Intercollegiate Athletics” budget. That budget, incidentally, is $15,462,804, which is larger than the budgets of all but four of Temple’s colleges. The colleges with larger budgets than “Intercollegiate Athletics” are Science and Technology,
Business, Medicine, and Liberal Arts.
• $11 million in “Incentive Funds.” The $11 million fund can be found near the end of the “Budget Detail,” on the same page where “Technology Transfer” ends and “Graduate School” begins. There are also significant such funds in the Podiatric Medical Clinic and elsewhere. I have not incorporated these funds on my spreadsheet because I do not know how they were or will be dispersed.
• $3.7 million for consultants, of which $2 million is for “legal fees.” In a time of crisis, needless to say, the University cannot continue to pay outside vendors for services (such as union contract negotiations by outside lawyers) that it can provide with in-house talent.
• $2.2 million in “additional pay” within various non-faculty budgets.
• $30 million in “University Contingency” funds (one of the two items I have included from the end of the “Budget Detail”). I expect that the University will strongly maintain that it must keep such a contingency fund immune from cuts in order to satisfy outside financial agencies that it has funds available for contingencies. This sounds like circular reasoning to me.
• $10.5 million in “Executive Compensation.” I have no idea who is included in this budget item (the second of the two items I included from the end of the “Budget Detail”). I have no idea why students have so much of their tuition money diverted for expenses that have
little if any connection to their educations. Here, between the lines, I am obviously claiming that administrative expenses should be kept to a minimum because administrators simply do not produce significant revenue.
I have a speech on the tip of my tongue. It is not a sweet speech. It does not have lofty ideas in it. It is an angry speech about how Temple (like most if not all large institutions) utilizes the tuition paid by its students and taxpayer money. It is sharp-tongued. It has some nasty language in it.
I will not make that speech now. Instead, I will end by inviting my readers to examine the documents I have provided with as much dispassion and skill as they can muster and then enter into an informed conversation about Temple’s short-term options for cutting its budget should that prove necessary as well as its longer-term options.