North Central Self Study
Chapter 2: UNK and the North Central Association
1994 NCA Team Report
2. Institutional Concerns
The level of support for the library, academic operations, instructional equipment, and support staff is extraordinarily weak. (p. 29)
This observation related generally to UNK's historically weak funding base and specifically to the lack of monies to improve the situation for "academic programs, the library, instructional equipment, administrative and support staff understaffing, and space deficiencies." The report noted also that while UNK itself should develop a remedial strategy for the resources that are made available to the campus, significant authority in these matters also resides outside campus councils at system and state government levels.
UNK's general funding situation, with respect to both state appropriations and tuition revenue, remains under pressure. Data prepared by the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education* indicates that UNK receives $235 less per undergraduate FTE student than its peer institutions. When appropriations, tuition, and fee revenues are combined, UNK lags its peer average by 19%. This is clearly not an advantage for campus planners, either for academic or for administrative and support activities. Still, the remedy does not lie solely (or even substantially) in campus hands. For example, since 1994 the University of Nebraska Regents and Central Administration have guided repeated attempts to achieve further economies in administrative operations. Two of its Blue Ribbon panels recommended consolidation or reduction initiatives affecting support activities.** Moreover, UNK (like all University of Nebraska campuses) has been required to reduce budgets and expenditures in response to mandated appropriations reductions (which have not been offset by corresponding tuition/fee increases). Reductions for FY03 and FY04 have amounted to $4,303,065. This trend mirrors events in many other states, but it remains nonetheless a severe challenge for this campus.
Within the pool of resources that is available to UNK, the campus invests a larger percentage in academic programs than peer institutions do.
- In 2001-02, IPEDS data show that UNK devoted 40.8% of its total expenditures (including depreciation, auxiliary enterprises, etc.) to instruction. Peers averaged 33.4%.
- For the core educational categories of instruction, research, and public service, UNK devoted 43.5% of its expenditures to those activities, while peers averaged 40.1%.
These efforts reflect a sustained commitment to preserve core academic strengths. By comparison, the gap between UNK investments and peer investments in non-academic categories is large and growing, particularly in operation and maintenance of plant, institutional support, and student services. While these are not propitious or desirable developments, UNK has made continuing efforts to ensure that the ability to provide quality non-academic services has been retained.
In addition to internal allocations of campus funds, on each campus academic programs identified as priorities have benefited from earmarked distributions from Varner Hall, (Central Administration). At UNK, these "Programs of Excellence" monies have amounted to $584,626 in FY 2002-03 and $689,625 FY 2003-04. They have been allocated to a variety of uses in colleges, the library, and the Office of Sponsored Programs, including student/faculty research, capital and instructional equipment needs, and faculty development. Reports about these funds are available in the Resource Room and specific uses are highlighted in this Self-Study.
The Calvin T. Ryan Library
General fund support for library collection development and non-personnel support since the last NCA self-study has followed the course of University state allocations. A significant increase for the library materials budget (See Table 2.4) was received for the 1993-1995 biennium. Although state revenues flattened in later periods, library general fund support was to some extent maintained. Moreover, with support from campus equipment budgets and student fees, the library has aggressively reshaped its collections, services and facility.
While library print book collections have grown at a steady rate, the journal collections have shown a dramatic and deliberate shift in format and growth. To offset a decline in the number of hard copy traditional journal subscriptions from 1,800 titles to 1,551 titles, the library has brought to its users a collection of over 9,000 network accessible journal titles. These are complemented by an ever-growing collection of digital indexing and abstracting publications covering all areas of the curriculum and by a state-of-the-art desktop document delivery system which will secure publications not held by the library.
This "virtual" collection has been funded from what was a student ballot-initiated library collection support fund devoted almost exclusively to digital resources. Originally each student was assessed one dollar/credit hour; however, in 2003 the Board of Regents approved a University-wide fee of two-dollars/credit hour, which will augment library resources by approximately $320,000 a fiscal year. The library has also been designated a recipient of allocations from the priority program fund. Table 2.5 displays funds distributed in support of library virtual resources purchased in Fiscal Years 1995-2003.
With sustained support from Information Technology Services, the library offers Web access to all digital resources from any location on campus. Such access is also available to any user off-campus who has an ISP. In-library access is supported by current PC technology including two teaching/general use facilities. All hardware is replaced on a three-year replacement cycle. This support is part of the campus I.T. infrastructure funded by student technology fee budgets and supported by I.T.S.
|Library State Budget: Capital Outlay 1993-2002|
|Includes: Materials, Microforms, Periodicals, and Bindery|
(Student Ballot-Initiated Library Collection Support Fund)
|On-Line Datebases Expenditures|
|1993-94||Did not Exist|
|1994-95||Did not Exist|
As indicated earlier, substantial UNK investments in the campus-wide information technology infrastructure have significantly modernized instruction and the learning resources available to students. Every academic building (plus residence halls, the union, and the library), has computer laboratories available to students and faculty. Every academic building has "smart" classrooms as well.
Moreover, UNK has made a concerted effort to use outside sources of support to enhance teaching and research capabilities in equipment-intensive disciplines. As a result, although this enhancement requires sustained attention at UNK, key departments have substantially modernized their instructional capabilities since 1994. Departments that have benefited from these investments include Modern Languages, Chemistry, Biology, Industrial Technology, and Speech Pathology.
Since FY 2002, special funding for Academic Priority Programs has also earmarked instructional equipment needs in key areas, including biology, chemistry, psychology, computer science, political science, social work, music, graphic design/multimedia, industrial technology, interior design, communications disorders, and exercise science. These investments totaled $285,125 in the first two years of priority funding at UNK. Deans of colleges also received a total of $115,500 in additional funds to support priority programs at their discretion. Some of these monies have been used for equipment supporting instruction and research or creative work with students (e.g., software, assistive technology devices and materials).
Despite these advances, satisfying instructional equipment needs remains an ongoing challenge. Given anticipated budgetary problems at the state level, it becomes even more important to seek funds from external sources, both Foundation and Federal, to support ongoing equipment and research needs.
As indicated above, UNK has generally maintained its historical investment emphasis on academic programs and activities that directly support them. By contrast, investment in support areas lags slightly behind peer averages. IPEDS data for 2002 show that UNK devoted 8.0% of its expenditures to institutional support activities, while peers invested 9.0%. This is, in fact, an improvement over 2001, when the difference was over 3%. In the operation and maintenance of plant category UNK invested 9.6% of its expenditures, while peers averaged 9.1%. This is a reversal of the 2001 data, when our peer institutions directed more than UNK to this category.
Support staffing, in particular, remains extraordinarily lean, and there have been recurrent pressures to economize further, especially in response to declining levels of state appropriations. For instance:
- The Association of Physical Plant Administrators (APPA) categorizes custodial care postures according to the number of gross square feet assigned per custodian.
Using that standard, as of April 2003 UNK has sufficient staff only to maintain a casual inattention" status - one custodian per 36,000 gross square feet. Another 15-20 custodians would be required to reach the next higher level (the second- ranking level overall), "ordinary tidiness."
- In grounds services, the April, 2003 UNK staffing was eight positions lower than the average staffing at peer institutions.
In general, UNK's Office of Facilities Management and Planning is funded at levels far lower than is desirable under national standards, for institutions of similar size. As of 2002-03, this UNK function is funded at approximately $2.00 per square foot (total gross square footage of the campus). The APPA average for all Master's institutions in this region was $2.54, and the average for all Master's level institutions was $3.16.
These comparatively low levels of support are replicated in support services throughout the campus. They reflect both institutional under-funding and a historical investment pattern that places a premium on core educational functions. Although these levels present significant operational and managerial challenges, the institution has been able to sustain quality services through managerial inventiveness and a strong staff work ethic.
As noted in Chapter 1, and again in Chapter 4, campus infrastructure advancements since the last NCA report have markedly improved the quality and quantity of space devoted to academic programs.
* Latest data available is compiled from IPEDS 2000-01 statistics. CCPE studies are available in the Resource Room.
** Materials pertaining to these studies are available in the Resource Room.