17 November 2010

My Question for the Week

Can anyone tell me (in dollars--not percentages, not comparisons to the amount requested, just plain dollars) how much money the university had each year since 2001 for actual operating costs? Not money dedicated to particular research or locked into an endowed chair, money that the university could use to pay teachers, underwrite research, provide essential university services to students.

I look at the operating budget and get sums that are not coherent with the claim that WSU has lost enormous amounts from its operating budget--so I must assume (given my acceptance that no one would lie about the operating budget) that much more of the current money is locked down for specific purposes than in our prior budgets. Is there any way to get this information from any public source?

Lynn Gordon

An Interesting and Useful Article

Here is an article which should be of interest to all of us interested in the future of higher education, universities, public universities, and WSU specifically:

"A Faustian bargain: An open letter to George M Philip, President of the State University of New York At Albany" by Gregory A Petsko at http://genomebiology.com/2010/11/10/138

On edit: This is an excellent article, but it concedes as true the claim that the humanities/liberal arts are not self-supporting.  After reading this letter, also read  "The Humanities Really Do Produce a Profit" by Robert N. Watson at http://chronicle.com/article/The-Humanities-Really-Do/64740/

Lynn Gordon

13 November 2010

Sources of Information about the Budget

It is difficult to find all the information one might want about the WSU budget, but here are three sources of information provided by the university:

Lynn Gordon

12 November 2010

Unending Budget Numbers

A while ago I posted a brief commentary on our operating budget numbers over the last 7 biennia.  It occurred to me that I might not have been entirely fair, since I reported those in dollars, not in dollars adjusted for inflation.  So here's another round of contemplating the operating budget numbers from  the same source (http://ir.wsu.edu/utils/File.aspx?fileid=5956).  Converted into 2010 dollars using the U.S. government's inflation calculator (http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl), our operating budgets over the last seven biennia have been

  • 1998-1999     $956,770,690
  • 2000-2001     $947,017,550     (1 % cut from the preceding biennium)
  • 2002-2003     $1,044,491,010  (10% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2004-2005     $1,078,352,700 (3% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2006-2007     $1,084,138,730  (1% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2008-2009     $1,255,350,460 (16% increase from the preceding biennium)
  • 2010-2011     $1,229,711,000  (2% decrease from the preceding biennium)
With the best will in the world, I find it difficult to see this as a disaster that requires immediate, catastrophic restructuring.

We might also consider that the proportion of our operating budget that comes from tuition has been steadily increasing over this period--so why does it make sense to reduce the number and quality of undergraduate courses (since like most other universities, the bulk of our students are undergraduates)?

P.S.  I am a linguist, not an accountant.  I would be happy to see anyone with more experience working with budgets take over my self-assigned task of interpreting the operating budget.  Really I would.

P.P.S. Click here to see the proportions of the operating budget from each of the major sources.

Lynn Gordon

(edited to add link to chart and to correct typo)

11 November 2010

A Question

Background:  Twenty years ago, WSU underwent a retrenchment similar to the one we have been suffering through over the last year or so and at that time the decision was made to restructure the university by making vertical cuts.

Question: Has anyone studied the process and results of that 'realignment'?  (We are, after all, an academic institution--we believe in research and in general we believe that understanding the past can help us understand the present.  Or do we?)

Lynn Gordon