Topic: Administrative

May 2, 2008

For the third straight year, the Board of Trustees has approved salary increases averaging 4 percent for faculty, professional employees and staff.

Acting at their regularly scheduled May 2 meeting on campus, board members passed the recommended salary adjustments while also approving a proposed 2008-09 general fund budget for the university that totals just over $290 million. The spending outline reflects an anticipated increase in state appropriations of roughly 4 percent as well as a previously acted upon 4.9 percent increase in tuition for the vast majority of Ball State students who reside in Indiana.

At its May 2007 meeting, the board approved a proposal raising student tuition and fees for both the 2007-08 and 2008-09 academic years. President Jo Ann M. Gora and Ball State financial officials said at the time that the move would help both the university and students better plan future outlays by setting budget expectations early. In general, tuition for in-state students will increase to $3,500 per semester for 2008-09, up from $3,336 for the just-completed school year. Also as previously acted upon by the board, tuition for non-Indiana students in 2008-09 will rise 6 percent to $9,402 per semester, up from $8,870 this year.

"Our primary objective remains providing students with the finest educational experience available," said Gora. "At the same time, we strive to keep tuition and fees as low as possible. This new budget will allow the university to continue to be affordable while also maintaining funding for many of our educational priorities."

High among those priorities, Gora reiterated, is increasing salaries for university employees, especially faculty.

"High-achieving students expect to be challenged by exceptional professors both in and out of the classroom," she stressed. "Increasing compensation for faculty members and staff is one of the best ways we can attract and retain high-level personnel. It is critical to Ball State's long-term success, which is why it's also a significant aspect of our strategic plan."

Savings to strategic plan

As in 2007-08, this year's budget process focused on allocating available resources in order to fund strategic plan initiatives, explained Thomas Kinghorn, vice president for business affairs and treasurer. Last year, the university was able to reduce net expenses by nearly $2.8 million that, when combined with increased revenues, netted the university approximately $3.5 million toward support of the goals in Education Redefined: Strategic Plan 2007-2012.

And because those funds are recurring, they are again available to help pay for new and ongoing strategic plan initiatives, Kinghorn said, adding that for 2008-09 the university identified during the budget process another $995,000 that can be reallocated for advancing components of the strategic plan.

"It's not that we're really 'cutting' anything," said Kinghorn. "We're not eliminating positions or programs, for example. But we do do is try to find possible reductions in expenditures where we can, whether it's in the number of phones an office or department wants to install, say, or postage or printing costs. That is the budget planning process. We do it every year, and every year we've been able to make [corresponding] allocations to specific areas that are the focus of our strategic plan, such as attracting and building a more diverse student body and supporting new immersive learning programs."

In other financial action, the board also approved changes in Ball State's bidding policies for purchasing goods, services and construction.

Since 1995, university policy has required that any purchase of material, commodities, supplies, equipment or services with an estimated expenditure of $10,000 or more be made only after the solicitation, when practical, of at least three competitive bids. To account for an inflation rate of approximately 3 percent annually over the past 13 years, however, Kinghorn proposed that threshold be raised to $15,000.

He also recommended that, because the procurement of certain services often involves "a more subjective evaluation" than the acquisition of commodities, in qualifying cases bid requirements be waived in favor of a single source award. Those qualifications, according to Kinghorn, may include the experience, skills, availability and demonstrated understanding of a designated project (up to $25,000) by the prospective service provider.

Prior approval of the vice president for business affairs or the associate vice president of finance and assistant treasurer also would be required for such a bid waiver, Kinghorn emphasized.

New degree

On the recommendation of Provost Terry King, the board also approved the establishment of a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) program for students enrolled in the acting and musical theater options of the theater major. Currently, such students graduate with a bachelor of arts (BA) or bachelor of science (BS).

"The Department of Theatre and Dance has emerged as a regional leader among theatre and dance programs. Its innovative course offerings, immersive learning experiences, new-media productions, and a highly qualified and forward-thinking faculty have laid the groundwork for a program of national distinction," said King.

"However, no undergraduate program in theater can hope to achieve a national reputation without offering the BFA in acting and musical theater."

In support of his recommendation, King took special note of the quality of department productions on campus as well as the record of achievement of Ball State theater students in the annual Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival and the department's yearly showcases in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Many recent graduates also have found success as they either enter the profession or gain admission into some of the nation's top graduate programs, King said.

But, he added, "These recent successes will be difficult to maintain without the ability to continue to attract top-notch students from both Indiana and beyond. The BFA enhances our ability to attract and retain these excellent students."

Since 1988, as its regional and national reputation has improved, the size of the Department of Theatre and Dance has grown from 100 majors to the current 385 students enrolled in seven options of study, King reported. The student body also is more diverse, both ethnically and geographically, with students from 20 states ranging from Washington on the West Coast to Florida in the East.

Ball State already offers a BFA in art through the Department of Art. Students seeking the new BFA in acting and musical theater will be required to complete 85 credit hours in their major to earn the degree, King said.