The Program and Budget Council is tasked with reviewing programs based on the primary question: are there enough funds? It is also tasked with reviewing the budget of the Campus (and at times the whole university), and then making recommendations up the ladders of influence.
Recently the university formed an Economic Task Force with the main purpose of looking into four areas: procurement, energy, IT, and academic affairs. A major concern for the university is creating more efficiency sometimes translated in to finding measures to decrease waste. A prime concern, however, is with academic affairs. The university is concerned that undergraduates are trending towards a 5-6 year graduate window rather than the traditional 4 years. This is disconcerting for the university because it subsidies every student approximately $7,000/year, so naturally extended stays equates to higher costs. The university is currently looking at a 3-year plan that would accelerate learning and move students ‘out the door’ sooner. This is purely speculation but such a move could influence the number of TA/TO positions on campus if the plan increased credits/course.
The Board of Trustees just approved a $3.1 billion in capital planning for the UMass system with $1.7 billion allocated to UMass Amherst. Where this money will come from is unclear but surely it will eventually be put on the backs of students. It will also raise the debt ceiling, which is already high, to its maximum levels.
The Vision Project, launched in 2010, is constituted by the Dept of Higher Ed., legislators, other state educators and leaders, and businesses. Its main goal is to assess the current state of higher education in Massachusetts. It recently launched its first report entitled “Time to Lead: The Need for Excellence in Public Higher Education. The report can be found here: http://www.mass.edu/visionproject/home.asp. Members of the council have expressed concern about the measures being used to assess higher ed in MA along with the disparate needs of each institution (e.g. the needs of community colleges surely differs from those of the UMass system, not to mention the needs of each individual campus).
Council brief submitted by Robin Anderson, GSS Treasurer