Academic programs may receive new funds this month

University officials said they expect to release $1 million for academic spending late next week, pending a census by the Office of Institutional Research.

Last year the University withheld $2 million from the academic budget, but said half of that amount may be available to University academic departments pending a review of enrollment numbers conducted after the sixth week of school.

While the official numbers will not be released until Friday, Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Louis Katz said they expect the money to be available after the census is released.

According to unofficial counts taken at the end of the fourth week of school, the University is enrolling more students than predicted, Lehman said. The additional tuition-generated revenue will likely allow the University to avoid any permanent cuts from academics.

“If you are retaining more students it means the students are doing well … they’re happy,” said Katz. “It’s always a positive.”

Last May, the Board of Trustees approved a plan to fill an $8.2 million fiscal year 2007 budget gap that extracted $3.2 million from savings in the operating budgets of non-academic units, and $5 million from capital expenditures and budget reserves.

The plan initially included cuts from academic funding, but was altered following a Faculty Senate resolution in April that opposed these cuts. The budget plan did, however, call for $2 million to be pulled from academic programs to be possibly reallocated this year.

This included $1 million to be released for one-time investments this year and $1 million to possibly be released after the assessment of enrollment numbers. Lehman said the one-time investments, which may go toward needs like labs for new science faculty members, will be distributed next week. The second $1 million will likely be released next week as well, Katz and Lehman said.

The Board also approved a 5 percent endowment payout of $6.2 million in May, including $4.5 million to go toward academic funding related to the Strategic Plan for Academic Excellence.

The Strategic Plan, which began in 2001, calls for financial support of the school’s strongest programs like history, political science, biomedical engineering and Asian studies, among others. Two million dollars is distributed to these programs yearly.

A panel of two deans and five faculty members met last Wednesday to rank proposals from faculty members in six different schools for this year’s strategic plan investments.

Lehman will consider these rankings this week when he decides where to distribute the funding for academics.

“It gives the faculty the opportunity to have direct participation and compete for the money,” Lehman said.

The outline of the investment process says the proposals will be evaluated on whether they will “produce measurable outcomes that will enhance the University’s prestige and reputation.”

Out of the $4.5 million for academics from the endowment, Lehman said $260,000 was already allocated to the Writing in the Disciplines program, and $465,000 was given to the Columbian College to hire 15 instructors for language programs.

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