Using words like “enterprising” and “ambitious,” the administration’s claims of support for its new decentralized budget model outline something like a cure-all for the university’s budget woes. The budget was proposed by President Theobald himself and will go into effect in July.
But the new model isn’t perfect, and the issues associated with implementing it are well worth mentioning.
A decentralized budget reverses the incoming cash flow to the university, sending money directly to schools and colleges rather than the central administration. Specifically, it means schools and colleges will receive tuition money their students have paid, rather than it being divvyed up from the university’s large pool.
To keep the money coming in, schools and colleges will be responsible for keeping enrollment numbers up.
For the administration, this creates an incentive for schools and colleges to cultivate programs that attract students. But concerned faculty have rightfully pointed out that the competition for money between schools will also increase competition for the interests of students.
This would likely harm Temple’s academic climate in a number of ways.
Most obviously, the need to pique student interests could be easily assuaged by administering popular classes that are less in line with Temple’s academic mission.
“Like, we could create a major in the study of pornography and probably have a huge increase in enrollment,” Richard Joslyn, a member of the College of Liberal Arts Budget Priorities committee, told The Temple News. “Is that the right thing to do?”
The College of Liberal Arts could have the most to lose after the decentralized budget is implemented. The large majority of courses offered in Temple’s general education program are in the CLA. Under a decentralized budget, that could change as colleges realize that students taking classes outside their major means a loss of potential money.
That doesn’t sound like the kind of healthy academic climate Temple wants to promote.
A 1996 review of the decentralized budget model at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus, where Theobald was senior vice president, said that the model, which had been on campus for five years, had a negative effect on the collegiality of Indiana’s academic climate.
Overall, the model was found to be a success at Indiana. But in quantifying the overall success of the program at Temple, the administration should be measuring its effect on academics, not just the budget line.