Decision-making processes for resource allocation in a public higher education institution during continuous budget cuts
Beginning in early 2002 fiscal year (FY2002), the University of Nebraska-Lincoln experienced four reductions in state funding. This required the administration to cut the University's budget on four consecutive occasions. Round one of the budget cuts comprised cuts for FY2002 and FY2003; the second and third rounds comprised cuts for FY2003; and round four involved cuts for FY2004. Each round of cuts varied in the required responses from the administration and faculty leadership. With the continuous reductions in budget the decisions became more contentious.
The methodology employed in this study was qualitative text analysis. Public documents constituting the data for this study included (1) official and unofficial documents released by the Chancellor; (2) Academic Senate meetings minutes; (3) Senate's executive committee meeting minutes; and (4) printed media articles. Based on the documents, a timeline of the events, beginning with the first announcement of reduction in state funding, was constructed and the events that occurred were placed within the timeline for a detailed description of the process.
Eleven key elements were identified as significant in the process. They are presented in ranked order based on their contribution to the process and its outcome: (1) prior development of policies for budget cuts; (2) importance of joint planning committee; (3) holding open hearings; (4) leadership by the Chancellor; (5) dissemination of information and maintaining communication; (6) importance of faculty executive committee; (7) support from senior administrators; (8) maintaining focus on mission; (9) using vertical cuts approach; (10) attention to media without being influenced; and (11) planning ahead, even during budget cuts.
These eleven elements, termed 'lessons learned', are considered to be lessons that may be helpful in guiding subsequent budget cuts processes. It is hoped that future studies will be carried out expanding on this basis of knowledge. This could benefit future decision-makers in higher education when faced with decisions on budget cuts, as will undoubtedly happen.
0514: School administration