Possible Money Saving Solution For California Budget Problem. (Opinion)

Possible Money Saving Solution For California Budget Problem. (Opinion)


California State is/will suffer a budget short fall that will impact all our state education institutions at all levels, from kindergarten to college for quite some time. We hear of teachers at our grade, middle and high schools possibly not getting renewed contracts. This is expected to impact our state education product, which means there is likelihood that our children will not get the best education in the future. At the college level we have seen tuition rates that have outpaced inflation and possibly placing college level of education out of reach for a lot of young people. At one state college the budget short fall is expected to be about $15,000,000.

At the college level we hear very little as to how they plan to meet this crisis. Colleges and universities have seemed to always function with little or no oversight from the sovereign power base. If we leave the decisions for the possible budget cuts to the institutional leaders, they just might formulate solutions that protect their own positions and cut out the front line workers that actually create and deliver the product, the faculty.

Here are some ideas for cutting colleges and universities expenditures.

1. Do away with all offices of Dean on all state campuses or drastically limit this allegedly superfluous level of management. This level of bureaucracy came out of the Catholic Church model of putting a super priest in charge of a quantity of lower priests. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_%28education%29 ) Here are the reasons for this cost savings:

a. Looking at numerous web sites that publish the duties of college deans, it becomes apparent that the role of dean, most broadly speaking, is that of facilitating and promotion. Their function appears to be somewhat removed from the core mission of teaching which is the point being made in this recommendation. When times are tough, it makes sense to cut the extraneous – not what is most important, that being the instruction. Instruction is the product not administrator’s ego’s.

b. The alleged inflation within the deans offices of even more administrators called associate, assistant deans, and directors, bloats non core functionality and seems to eat up resources of space, salaries and parking that arguably should be directed toward improving the overall instruction process and delivery.

c. Support staff “needed” to work for these middle managers populates these offices “unnecessarily” thus robbing other department offices of needed support staff. One example is at Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering allegedly has five or six support staff working in the deans office while a department of Civil Engineering that serves forty faculty has only one secretary. One can only guess that the powerful might take care of their needs first when they are asked for budget cutting proposals.

2. Limit vice presidents to a more realistic number per campus. I propose that any state university or college be allowed only one vice president for each 10,000 students. Why is it that most countries that have a president and vice president as their political leaders can do with one vice president?
3. It is understandable to rely on a bureaucracy top down model coming from past historical practice, namely the Catholic Church. It evolved that way. This model comes from the middle ages. On the one hand the model works and history seems to support that conclusion. Such a system seems to work for a lot of military model businesses. But, education is expected to be innovative, cutting edge, collaborative and intelligent. Why not modify the model a bit and rid a whole class of managers that, one can argue, bloat the system for little gain.
4. Why not examine the possibility that each campus have an executive, a provost, that runs the day to day business and let the figure head president do the promotion, the glad handing community events? The provost meets with each department head instead of some umbrella VP and dean.

I propose that deans, associate deans and assistant deans all go back to teaching. They most probably will make their old salary, which will be a bit of a financial loss. This should help out the teaching load. A college and university dean’s office that has support staff can move these individuals into department offices thus offering help to the two most important customers: teachers and students.

Who owns the state colleges and universities? You do. If you pay taxes, you are the sovereign owner of each campus. These institutions have been operating in a convenient secrecy of being remote and removed from public scrutiny. There is a parent teacher association for each public school until we reach the public colleges and universities. Why? Once again it has evolved this way. Let us start to reevaluate the higher education process and see if we need all those middle managers that allegedly suck up high pay, staff and resources.

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