In Phase Two
|ECU family medicine professor and Faculty Senate member Dr. Gary Levine listens to discussion of potential reorganization plans at the March 20 Faculty Senate meeting. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)|
Committee unveils potential cost savings for academic reorganization
East Carolina University could save up to $3.8 million annually by reorganizing its academic structure.
That estimate was released March 30 in a report from the chancellor-appointed Program Prioritization Committee. It outlines four possible scenarios for reorganization, which range in scope from implementing no change to dismantling up to three existing colleges: the College of Human Ecology, the College of Health and Human Performance and the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences. The programs currently grouped within those colleges would be assigned to other units.
Cuts to administrative spending would produce the most savings, according to the report. Several changes would lead to the elimination of deans, chairs or directors, and a reduction of fixed-term faculty is also proposed. Committee members have expressed their awareness at forums of the potential human toll of reorganization.
The scenarios released today represent the second phase of the committee’s work since its creation in May 2011, which aims to reduce expenditures while improving academic quality. ECU took a 16.1 percent budget cut in state funding for the 2011-2012 fiscal year following four consecutive years of state budget cuts.
Phase I included the identification of individual programs across the university for investment, maintenance, reduction or elimination. Committee chair Ron Mitchelson said cost savings will be associated with those decisions, too.
“If you’re saving $2 million of $210 million (the combined total state budget for Academic Affairs and Health Sciences), that’s about 1 percent,” said Mitchelson, a geography professor at ECU. “I think it’s at the level we were expecting. It’s a reasonable approach.”
Potential changes to the College of Arts and Sciences would result in the creation of a social and behavioral sciences and humanities college, as well as a STEM college focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the report states. Mitchelson said there are many people on campus intrigued by the potential benefits of a STEM college.
The committee also suggests that $1 million could be saved annually by analyzing academic administrative costs across campus, even if structural changes aren’t made. Under that plan, an estimated $650,000 would be cut from the Academic Affairs budget – the largest of ECU’s three academic divisions – with Health Sciences forfeiting $350,000 annually.
“We’re creating a bit of pressure for the units to self-evaluate,” Mitchelson said.
A series of forums will be held beginning April 9 so that faculty and staff can provide feedback on each of the scenarios. Following that input period, the committee will recommend one scenario to the chancellor.
“We’re here to listen,” Mitchelson said. “It’s going to be a difficult decision. There are tradeoffs (with each scenario). And we’ve said from the beginning that if the money isn’t worth the disruption, maybe we shouldn’t do it.”
For more information on the committee or to view the documents they produced, visit www.ecu.edu/ppc.
Estimated savings $1 million per year