UMass Amherst People Finder
Reports on the Campus Budget
 

Amherst 250 Plan: Step One, An Interim Report

[posted December 2, 2005]

 

The information contained in the following documents describes the first step in the implementation of the Amherst 250 Plan.  The full text of the plan also appears on this site.  The goal of the 250 Plan is to increase the Amherst campus’ tenure and tenure track faculty by 250 to create a faculty capable of sustaining the high level of teaching and research performance expected of the state’s nationally competitive flagship campus.

This campus initiative comes after a period of great budgetary stress for the institution that saw a significant reduction in faculty numbers due to early retirement programs.  These early retirement programs left some parts of the campus significantly under staffed for the teaching and research responsibilities they perform, in addition to over committed to a wide range of service activities.

With the strong support of the campus’ many constituencies and the UMass System President’s office, the university’s request for additional funding for the UMass System was met with a very positive response from the Commonwealth’s legislature.  This campus’ traditional share of the UMass System increase is the source of funding for the first step in the Amherst 250 Plan.

In this process, which has been discussed at length with the Faculty Senate 250 Task Force as well as with many other constituencies, several comments are in order:

  • This is only Step One which addresses the allocation of the funding received for the Amherst 250 plan for FY06.  To be able to proceed to subsequent steps and for the full 250 plan to succeed we must continue to support our legislators as they consider funding the future essential growth in the UMass budget.
  • This first step focuses on two principal dimensions of the campus’ faculty needs: teaching first, research second.
  • As the data below illustrate, there are significant variations in the teaching deficits among departments measured against national norms for each department.  In this first step, we have made some progress in addressing these deficits, but we have not completely resolved all of them by any measure.  Some critical needs will not be met until we reach at least Step Two in the process.
  • In addition, this is a research extensive university, and as a result we have also allocated some portion of the 250 Plan resources to support special, clearly identifiable research needs, without being able to address a substantial majority of those needs.
  • As we work through this first step, we will continue to refine the data and the guidelines we will use to allocate additional state investment in the Amherst 250 Plan in subsequent steps in subsequent academic years.  Although the data presented here are sufficient guidance for making judgments about teaching deficits and research needs for this first step, they are not refined enough to carry us into Step Two.  We will need to pay close attention to sections taught, to upper vs. lower division, and to graduate and professional education, among other criteria, in our understanding of the instructional component of our work.
  • In addition, while we have been able to make some research allocations in this first step, most respond to obvious commitments associated with grants and other similar requirements.  For the subsequent steps in this process, we will need better indicators of research performance that capture all of the research productivity of our colleges and their departments within the national context of high performing research campuses.  Collecting and using such data present their own challenges, and the Provost will work closely with the deans and the Faculty Senate 250 Task Force to develop these indicators.
  • Finally, any allocation of university resources, however sensible and guided by data, is subject to the academic judgment of faculty, Provost, Deans, and Departments.  The 250 Plan process is neither mechanical nor automatic, and the data developed to support decisions provide a guide to achieving the goals we all seek, but they do not create a formula for distribution.

As is always the case in dealing with important university decisions, we need to track the money.  The 250 Plan outlined a process for using funds to support the acquisition of faculty, and the following offers a preliminary estimate of how the campus share of the UMass System allocation maps to the various uses.

The total additional funds available to this campus reached approximately $7.5M.  Of that amount, the campus held back a reserve of about $732K to support the extra, potentially unfunded costs of the collective bargaining agreements.  While we do not yet know what the legislature and governor will do with the contracts, the President’s office has informed us that we should keep a reserve of about this amount.  In addition, about $300K is allocated as described in the plan to support library acquisitions related to the faculty hired under the plan.  Again, following the outline in the plan, we have reserved $2.4M for continuing start-up costs, administrative support for faculty, costs of providing space for faculty and teaching, an amount that supports previous commitments against new funds made before the approval of the 250 Plan as well as for TA support of new faculty.  In addition, the current process reserves about $537K for possible costs associated with higher than anticipated market salaries for new faculty, for unexpected opportunities that may arise, and for underestimates of start-up costs.

In this process, the expenditures associated with the hiring of faculty under Step One of the 250 Plan will not become permanent obligations until academic year 2006-2007 in most instances.  During the interim, the campus will use the 250 funds appropriated for 2005-2006 for one-time expenditures related to start up funds and to renovations and repairs associated with academic, research, and animal care space on campus. 

This note and the accompanying charts and data provide an interim report on the campus progress on the Amherst 250 Plan.  As the recruiting process continues and as colleges, schools, and departments provide data on the cost of acquiring talented teaching and research faculty, we will need to revise these estimates and eventually produce a final report on the 2005-2006 Step One by September of 2006.  By that time, of course, the campus will be well into the analysis and calibration of Step Two in the Amherst 250 Plan.

As always we look forward to your comments and suggestions.

 

John V. Lombardi

Chancellor

 

Charlena Seymour

Provost  

Instructional Analysis to Support the Amherst 250 Plan

A key goal of the Amherst 250 plan is to rebuild and rebalance the faculty after years of random attrition that left the campus with significant gaps between instructional demand and teaching resources. To inform this process, the Provost's Office completed an analysis of instructional supply and demand designed to identify programs where instructional investments would have the greatest impact. Because the Amherst 250 Plan addresses growth in tenure-system faculty, the analysis focused on that group of instructors.

The foundation of the instructional analysis is a comparison of supply and demand: how much teaching is needed from each department, and are the resources in place to meet those needs?

Instructional Demand

The first step in the analysis was to estimate the total need for instruction, expressed in student credit hours (SCH), for each unit. Academic year 2004–05 was chosen as the base year because it represents the closest approximation of total enrollment and distribution of majors available to us. In addition, because significant amounts of short-term funding had been distributed by the Provost's Office to respond to imbalances that had emerged during the budget cut years, AY 2004–05 also represented a reasonable estimate of the distribution of instructional demand. The SCH data were then adjusted to reflect allocations made directly by Commonwealth College, and the resulting totals constituted the estimate of instructional demand.

Instructional Capacity

To calculate the teaching capacity present in each department we looked at comparative data on teaching productivity available through the National Study of Instructional Productivity administered by the University of Delaware (the "Delaware" study). This project collects detailed data on instruction from a wide range of institutions, including 31 Research I universities. For each UMass Amherst department, we worked with the respective Deans to find the best match between our department and the data reported by the other research universities using the federal Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) codes. We then calculated the mean teaching productivity for each type of instructor in each discipline, expressed as student credit hours per FTE faculty (SCH/FAC FTE). This comparison makes it possible for each department's teaching to be evaluated in the context of its own discipline, accounting for differences in the distribution of the various types of instructors, at other reasonably similar institutions.

A department's total capacity was calculated as the sum of the following three components:

  1. The actual number of tenure-system faculty was multiplied by the mean SCH/FAC FTE for tenure-system faculty in the discipline, yielding the number of SCH that our department's faculty could produce if teaching at that norm.
  2. The same calculation was completed for each department's non-tenure system faculty (using the non-tenure teaching norm).
  3. The department's actual SCH production by Teaching Associates (graduate student instructors with primary responsibility for a credit-bearing section) in the most recent year.

Calculating Instructional "Surplus" or "Deficit"

Each department's calculated teaching capacity was compared with its demand. If capacity exceeded demand, then the surplus was shown (expressed in SCH). If demand exceeded capacity, then the resulting deficit was shown. The remainder of the analysis focused on programs having, or very close to having, instructional deficits.

Other Dimensions of Instructional Need

For the Amherst 250 process we also looked at a number of other indicators related to instructional need, both to seek confirmation for the results of the Delaware comparison and to provide insight into the nature and scope of instructional challenges across the campus.

  1. Majors Load

    In some departments, very high numbers of majors increase the demands placed upon faculty for advising, supervision of internships and independent studies, and other tasks. To identify departments with unusually high responsibilities of this type, we calculated the number of majors (graduate and undergraduate) per tenure-system faculty member, and highlighted departments significantly above the campus average of 22:1.

  2. Class Size

    At every research university instruction is provided in a range of formats: large introductory courses, often with small discussion sections; specialized seminars, workshops, or laboratory courses; smaller, more advanced courses in the major; and opportunities for internships, practica, and independent study. While class size is not a measure of instructional quality or effectiveness, examining it can provide two kinds of insights: 1) the distribution of class sizes across the departments can reveal areas of instructional stress; and 2) the relative size of classes in the upper division (advanced courses in the major) can signal a need for curricular adjustments.

    We examined class size from two perspectives:

    1. We calculated the proportion of classroom seats offered in classes equal to or greater than 100 in both the lower division (introductory courses) and the upper division (advanced undergraduate courses), and highlighted those at the upper end.
    2. We also examined one view of class size in the comparative context. The Delaware study makes it possible to calculate the average number of student credit hours (SCH) per organized class section (OCS) in the lower and upper division. We compared SCH/OCS for each of our departments with the mean for the discipline, and expressed the UMass value as a percent of the mean. Departments above the disciplinary mean were highlighted.
  3. Class Availability

    Another potential indicator of instructional need is the extent to which students are able to enroll in the classes they need in a timely manner. Each year, the Office of Academic Planning and Assessment conducts a survey of graduating seniors touching on a number of aspects of their experience in their majors. One question asks them to indicate their satisfaction with the availability of classes in their major. For this analysis we totaled the percent responding "somewhat dissatisfied" or "very dissatisfied," and highlighted those with the highest levels of dissatisfaction.

  4. Undergraduate Demand

    Finally, we examined underlying undergraduate demand to help frame the discussion of instructional resources. A balanced perspective on demand requires two different views: what students express interest in as they enter the institution, and where they settle after being exposed to the full curriculum. We therefore examined three different datasets:

    1. We looked at the preferences expressed by all freshman applicants to UMass Amherst, based on the first choice of major they indicated on the application.
    2. We looked at the preferences expressed by the entering freshman class, drawn from the UMass responses to the national ACE survey of freshmen (administered during summer counseling). These two "front end" indicators show quite similar results.
    3. We examined the distribution of baccalaureate and associate's degrees. This showed a somewhat different view of demand, in part because students who entered as "undeclared" found academic homes and in part because of a process of discovery as students moved through the institution.

    We developed a combination of "front end" and "back end" indicators to express overall demand.

Organizing the Data to Support Decision Making

The various views of instructional activity are shown on Table I. The data were then organized to help group similarly situated departments together, and focus on the central questions emerging from the Amherst 250 plan. The objective was to array the data in a way that could help inform judgment, but not to create a "score" for each department. Departments were organized into eight groups:

  1. Group 1 includes departments with the most comprehensive evidence of instructional need: the highest calculated instructional deficits, and evidence of need expressed in majors load, class size and/or availability, and demand. In addition, because the Amherst 250 process allocates resources for the rebuilding of the tenure-system faculty, Group 1 departments also showed above-average productivity among that group of instructors.
  2. Group 2 includes other departments with calculated deficits and high tenure-system productivity, as well as some evidence of stress expressed in class size and/or availability.
  3. Group 3 includes the remaining departments with both calculated deficits and high tenure-system productivity.
  4. Group 4 includes departments very near the mean for overall instructional capacity, and with tenure-system faculty outperforming the mean.
  5. Group 5 includes all remaining departments with, or near, overall calculated deficits.
  6. Group 6 includes departments with modest instructional surpluses and evidence of student demand.
  7. Group 7 includes departments with more significant surpluses, but still with evidence of student demand.
  8. Group 8 includes all other departments.

The application of these criteria is summarized below:

GroupCapacityTT NeedMajorsClass Size/AvailabilityDemand
1Red (≥10% shortfall)
2Red, Pink (<10% shortfall)  
3Red, Pink   
4Grey (≥90% of norm)   
5Red, Pink, Grey    
6Surplus 10–25%   
7Surplus >25%   
8Surplus 10–25%    

Table 2 summarizes the data and shows the group assignment for each department, organized by school and college. Department names are shaded to indicate whether they are at or near a calculated deficit. For the other variables data are represented using the follow symbols: a solid square (solid square) indicates the highest values for the variable (red on Table 1); a half-filled square (half-filled square) indicates the next-highest values (pink on Table 1); and an open square (open square) indicates a value near the mean.

Table 3 shows the same information, but sorted by group (and alphabetical within group), to give a better sense of the logic underlying the groupings.

Consultation and Ongoing Revision

The instructional analysis was developed by the Provost's Office through consultation with many members of the campus community. The basic design elements flowed from the Chancellor's Amherst 250 Plan, which itself has been the subject of considerable debate and discussion. The construction of the analytic model involved many iterations and revisions. The core supply and demand comparison is based on three years of work and numerous conversations with Deans, departments, Faculty Senate groups, and others. The enhancements developed in the context of the Amherst 250 plan were discussed in detail through two rounds of one-on-one discussions with each Dean, and at various stages drafts were presented and discussed at meetings of the Faculty Senate Amherst 250 Task Force, the Academic Priorities Council, and the Program and Budget Council. At its meeting of November 4, 2005, the Faculty Senate 250 Task Force approved the following statement, ratified by email vote: "Based on the data received to date, the UMA 250 Task Force concludes that the administration has devised appropriate measures of instructional need sufficient to drive the first round of the UMA 250 allocation process.  We look forward to working with the administration on the processes for evaluating research productivity and departmental benchmarking, which will drive later rounds of UMA 250."

The Chancellor and the Provost have made it clear that the process of developing data to inform Amherst 250 decisions will continue to evolve. This year's instructional analysis was intended to identify the campus's most pressing needs. As the process moves forward, the analysis will continue (so as to assess the impact of the first year's investments) and change (so as to refine the insights available for future allocations). The Provost's Office will continue to work with the campus community to explain and improve the analysis.

Allocations

Allocations from this first year of Amherst 250 funding have been made in several categories, reflecting the overall objectives outlined throughout the process. The allocations are summarized in Table 4.

Instruction

The majority of the allocations reflect instructional needs, informed by the instructional analysis. These allocations fall into two groups:

  1. Funds to support 21 tenure-system searches for the current cycle (i.e., faculty members to come to campus during FY07). For these positions the need has been demonstrated and departments are prepared to move forward.
  2. Funds to support an additional 10 positions are being allocated now, but it is anticipated that the tenure-system faculty will not begin to arrive on campus until AY 07–08. The permanent use of these funds is delayed because the affected units are in the midst of leadership changes, and it will be important for the new leadership to be involved in the hiring decisions. Positions in this category will respond to instructional needs in Languages, Literatures and Cultures and Music and Dance (search for chair and Dean under way), and two additional positions in HFA will be held pending the appointment of a new Dean. In addition, positions that could support expanded enrollment in the Isenberg School of Management have been identified, with discussions to involve a new Dean.

Research

Some positions have been funded from this year's Amherst 250 funds to support the campus's research mission. These come in four categories:

  1. Positions to support research grant or private giving opportunities.
  2. Positions responding to overall high performance and recent growth in sponsored activity.
  3. Positions for departments at the intersection of instructional need and high research performance.
  4. Positions supporting the campus's life sciences initiative.

It is expected that next year's allocations to support the research mission will be informed by the broader set of data emerging from the research benchmarking process.

Impact of Faculty Investments

It is important to note that all faculty investments, whatever their rationale, increase both teaching and research capacity. In the case of "instructional" allocations, while it is naturally expected that there will be a direct relationship between the new campus resources provided and the instructional issues identified during the allocation process, these investments should also be reflected in research productivity. In the case of allocations made primarily to support the research mission, it will still be important to understand instructional impact. For example, a number of departments with no obvious shortfall in tenure system faculty appear to have issues related to class size and/or availability. The Provost's Office will continue to monitor instructional productivity, and work with the Deans to develop a better understanding of how these issues have arisen and how they can be addressed.

Prior Commitments and Replacement Hiring

The Amherst 250 funding will support growth of the faculty beyond what would be available from ongoing replacement of departing faculty members. Considerable "routine" faculty hiring will nonetheless also occur this cycle, further reinvigorating the campus. A current estimate for these positions is shown, and also an estimate for total faculty hiring from all sources of funding.