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 Instructional Resource Allocation 

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Decisions about the composition of the program array, and each program's role in the array, are made using the processes and criteria outlined in Undergraduate Program Array and Graduate Program Array sections. The related, yet distinct, decision about whether an academic department or program has sufficient instructional resources to carry out its mission requires a separate process and criteria. Instructional resources represent our greatest asset and our largest investment within Academic Affairs, comprising 86% of our total budget. We are committed to allocating these resources wisely, with our decisions guided by four fundamental considerations: the needs of current students; an understanding of future enrollment trends and programmatic directions; relative cost of instructional resources; and the program's alignment with the priorities of the Academic Master Plan and University guideposts.

Our mission to provide a transformative liberal education—through a challenging LE Core and high-impact learning opportunities—requires nothing less.  Declining resources, however, will inevitably force departments and programs to focus their course array on fewer disciplinary topics.  While it is regrettable that our students will lose the chance to study certain subjects in their majors, we serve students best by sacrificing comprehensive coverage of disciplinary topics in favor of maintaining high expectations in the courses we do offer. 

Rodd Freitag
First, it is clear that we must serve the instructional needs of current students. The academic experience of current students is directly tied to student retention, our University image and reputation, and our continued ability to recruit future Blugolds. Several factors form the underlying drivers of current instructional resource needs, such as the number of declared majors in the program; the annual number of students graduating from the program; the number of students earning a second major, a minor, or a certificate within the program; the number of students taking the program's courses as requirements or electives for other majors; and the number of students taking the program's courses to meet the requirements of the Liberal Education Core. Collectively, these underlying drivers determine the current demand for seats in a program's classes and help provide useful data to inform instructional resource needs. SCH/FTE (student credit hour/full time equivalent) measures the level of instructional resources needed to deliver a credit hour of instruction. This is an imperfect, yet none-the-less important measure of the resources being expended by an academic department or program to meet current needs. The SCH/FTE ratio is independent of which of the drivers listed above contributed to that teaching load. It presents advantages for baseline evaluation of instructional resource need since it is classroom instruction that is ultimately effective in attracting and retaining students to the major; developing cross-campus collaborations and inter-disciplinary coursework that increases student demand for the relevant courses; and providing courses in the Liberal Education Core. The SCH/FTE ratio provides a baseline point of comparison for relative need, against which informed allocation of instructional resources can be conducted. However, we recognize that there is no single SCH/FTE metric that can be applied universally across campus. The SCH/FTE metric exists within a broader context of University values, disciplinary considerations, and pedagogical factors. In particular, a program's SCH/FTE ratio must be informed by:

  • Nature of material taught and associated pedagogy.
  • Level of material taught such as graduate versus undergraduate or lower division versus upper division.
  • Differences between credit hours versus contact hours.
  • Licensing requirements that may dictate student to faculty ratios.
  • Strategic intent to provide smaller class sizes, especially during the freshman year.

Second, instructional resource allocation must simultaneously look beyond the present. It needs to be strategic, forward-looking, willing to take calculated risks, and aware of future enrollment and employment trends. Resource allocation decisions must evaluate the potential long-term benefits of maintaining programs in their current form, including select small programs; targeting growth in existing programs; and developing new programs to meet the needs of future students.

Third, beyond informed interpretation of workload measures such as the SCH to FTE ratio, program costs must also be a consideration in resource allocation. Measures such as dollars per SCH are necessary for understanding the relative cost of programs and for making informed cost/benefit analyses and resource allocation decisions. Program costs may include faculty and staff salaries/wages, equipment, and supplies. The Office of Institutional Research will develop the specific metric for measuring program cost and will provide this data to inform resource allocation decisions.

A fourth consideration must be the degree to which a program's practices and outcomes support the overall goals of the University and the priorities of the Academic Master Plan. While credit hour production is a key measure of current need, those credit hours must be produced in support of University priorities. Value metrics such as the following help align resource allocation with shared priorities such as the 100/90/50/20 guideposts: number of students engaged in high impact practices; program-level retention and four-year graduation rates; degree of student diversity within the program; ability to reduce the opportunity gap for students of color; annual number of admitted freshmen and transfer students; and post-graduate success of program alumni. Many of these measures are already incentivized and rewarded, albeit it in a relatively small way, through our campus Strategic Accountability Matrix (SAM), which tracks leading indicators of progress toward our Public Accountability Matrix (PAM) measures. While stellar performance on these value metrics certainly affirms the program's alignment with overall University objectives, it does not in and of itself entitle the program to additional instructional resources. Performance metrics are one piece of evidence to use in resource allocation decisions.

Resource allocation decisions must be driven by a holistic evaluation of four primary criteria: teaching workload created by current student enrollment in the courses offered by the programs in question, as measured by an SCH/FTE ratio appropriate to the discipline; an analysis of forward-looking, strategic implications of predicted enrollment and employment trends; relative cost of the program; and alignment of the program with overall University goals and priorities.