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Metro State the
preeminent public
urban baccalaureate
college, a western
version of City
College of New
York.
And Jordan
had no intention of
letting a recession
get in the way.
So in December
of 2008, with
the state facing a
massive budget
shortfall, Jordan
and his team began drawing up a three-tiered plan that would
allow the school to deal with an expected cut in state funding
the following year.
They designed three options: one if, as predicted, their
budget took a ten percent hit; another if the cuts were deeper;
and a third for what administrators considered a worst-case
scenario. Those were established “with impressively college-
wide discussions,” said Kaersvang, who said Jordan has
earned widespread respect for his commitment to both the
institution and the faculty.
It was a useful, if painful, exercise, according to Phelan.
“You learn where your priorities are,” she said.
InMay 2009, the school learned that the worst-case
scenario had come to pass: Metro State lost $9.9 million in
state appropriations—about 20 percent of its state funding—
for this fiscal year.
Yet even though they knew that federal stimulus funding
would cover the shortfalls, Jordan and his board resisted the
temptation to, as his academic model put it, simply resist.
Instead, they followed their plan to absorb the cuts. The good
news: The school managed to avoid layoffs. The bad news: It
had to eliminate about 100 positions (they had gone unfilled
due to a hiring freeze Jordan had imposed previously) and
ax a faculty pay-for-performance system that had been in the
works for three years.
But by doing so, Metro State has been able to allocate
the $10 million in stimulus money it has received this year
to reposition itself for the future. Metro State is anticipating
another $4 million in stimulus funds for the fiscal year that
begins in July 2010; if that funding comes through, it will also
be spent on these new programs. “It was, in some sense, an
opportunity for us,” said Jordan.
The Rightsizing with Technology initiative, designed
to increase efficiency by saving time, money and resources,
is receiving $2.6 million in stimulus funds. (Because of
restrictions on the use of stimulus funds, the school is
spending an additional million dollars out of its general
operating budget for associated hardware and software costs.)
The ideas for the initiative’s 37 individual projects came from
faculty, staff and students. They were chosen from a list of
nearly 100 submitted proposals based on two factors: ease of
implementation, which was paramount, because the stimulus
money has to be spent by July 2011; and projected benefits.
The latter are more difficult to quantify. “Some of
these [outcomes] will not be clear for a number of years,”
said Robert Williams, who was hired to track the projects’
implementation and results. “Savings is just one aspect of it.
We’re also creating new services and increasing efficiency.”
The initiative itself is going well, Williams said, with about
half a dozen projects already up and running, including one
that makes 3,000 professional development courses available
online, free of charge to faculty and staff. But its name was
an unfortunate choice, because it led some to suspect the
school was in fact planning to downsize. (In the fall, as faculty
were just returning to campus and learning the details of the
initiative, Williams became accustomed to hearing himself
referred to in hushed tones as “the GrimReaper.”)
In addition, according to Carl Powell, the former vice
president of information technology, the initiative faced
political pushback from people who felt it was too time-
consuming, and that Metro State should simply use the
stimulus money as backfill. But Jordan’s support helped
minimize the criticisms. “Having the president as chief
cheerleader on this helped cut some of the naysayers to the
side,” Powell said. “We always kept this as a presidential
initiative and didn’t let it slide into being an IT initiative. We
always said that would be the kiss of death.”
Jordan and his staff have also held numerous meetings to
assure faculty and staff that, rather than reducing personnel,
the initiative actually provides for additional hires. At least
17 of the projects will require one or more new employees.
“What we did right was being very public about it,” Jordan
said.
Now that those concerns have been addressed, Kaersvang
said, many faculty members are excited about the addition
of new technology, such as a system that will allow them to
remotely access their work files and software. “At this point, I
Given that Metro
State was already the
lowest funded four-
year institution in one
of the nation’s lowest
funded states, making
further cuts was not
going to be easy.
“Savings is just one aspect of it,” says Robert Williams, a consultant for Metro
State’s “Rightsizing with Technology” initiative. “We’re also creating new services
and increasing efficiency.”