Faculty Appointments. Faculty members at Valley City State University possess the necessary professional competencies to provide effective instruction and to carry out their related responsibilities. The table below summarizes the distribution of degrees and tenure, across all five divisions.
The number of full-time faculty with terminal degrees has increased by 47% over the past decade. Retention of faculty is also fairly strong: 26 faculty members (43%) have served VCSU for more than 10 years.
While small class sizes are a hallmark of VCSU, this also results in inequities of workload as some programs must be subsidized by larger programs and general education courses. In addition, faculty may choose to offer independent studies to assist students toward timely graduation, which further add to their workloads. Efforts have been made across campus to develop curricular options that reduce the need for these independent studies; the addition of online courses and growing enrollment have also reduced the number of independent studies, although not necessarily reducing workload. Recognizing the strain overload places on both the faculty member and the colleagues who must pick up the University service duties, APAC has developed a policy for discussion this coming fall which restricts faculty overload to 1/5 of a full-time contract. Such restriction will help the Academic Affairs office more readily identify programs needing additional faculty support.
In the middle of the past decade, VCSU faced dropping enrollment and the possibility of reduction in force. During much of this decade, no new faculty lines were added, and new initiatives were funded entirely through reallocation and grant support. The Fisheries and Wildlife Science major, for example was approved by Faculty Association vote on the condition that the program be self-supporting within five years, with 'self-supporting' defined as an enrollment of 40 majors. The start-up funding for the faculty position came from a grant. Other new programs were developed through curricular revision and faculty overload. The success of these ventures can be seen with record enrollments; the challenge now lies in managing growth and reducing faculty overload.
With the enrollment growth VCSU has experienced over the past few years and the support of grant dollars in Education (Bush Foundation) and STEM areas, VCSU has seen a recent increase in special, non-tenure track appointments. As the University adjusts to growth, the use of these appointments is deliberate: one year appointments allow the department to gauge the continued growth of a program and to fund the position from more flexible, local accounts. In this way, enrollment revenues directly support instruction. Full time (even though temporary) appointments benefit students more than a series of adjunct appointments, since faculty have more interaction with the department and institution, and stronger commitment to its programs and purposes, all of which strengthens continuity of instruction.
Not every new faculty hire is a special appointment, however; in areas of institutional strategic commitment, where program stability is reasonably assured, the University has committed to additional tenure-track positions, believing that this is VCSU's best way to locate quality faculty who might otherwise be put off by low salaries (see below). Four such positions have been developed in the past two years-psychology, technology education, fisheries and wildlife, and elementary education.
Faculty Salaries. Salaries over the past decade remain a challenge. Table 5.3 provides a comparison of salaries by rank, demonstrating North Dakota's continued lag in compensation. These lower salaries make job searches challenging, as the compensations offered to make up for these lower numbers-low cost of living, inexpensive housing, full medical benefits, low crime rate, excellent public education-are hard to quantify for the would-be employee.
The news is not all bad, however: in an otherwise depressed economy, North Dakota in general and VCSU in specific have fared well. While many universities have frozen or even cut salaries, made mandatory furloughs, and reduced contributions to retirement plans, VCSU has been able to offer salary increases every year over the last ten years. This is due in part from North Dakota's strong agricultural sector and increasing oil production. ND is now the fourth largest oil producing state in the US. According to the American Association of University Professors, the average salary increase for the 2009-2010 academic year was 1.2%. At VCSU the average faculty salary increase was 6.4% in 2009-10. Over the past decade, average faculty salary increases have ranged from 2.0% (2004-05) to 6.4% (2009-10), with an average increase over the decade of 4.6% annually.
Staff are placed in broad salary bands that focus on the knowledge and skills of the individual. VCSU employs 84 full-time and 8 part-time staff, who fall into bands as indicated in Table 5.4. The average years of service in each band indicates the stability and experience in offices across campus, and the dedication of staff, like faculty, to the University.
VCSU has identified market salary values for all staff positions on campus. These values, the level of responsibilities, and internal equity are used in determining salary increases above across-the-board increases. VCSU has a Salary Administration Policy to address salary applications. Annual responsibility reviews are used to assess staff performance.
While staff salaries generally run about 12-15% below regional and national comparators, Table 5.5 demonstrates the progress VCSU has made in raising salaries. Through application of minimum dollar per month salary increases, VCSU has intentionally increased the salaries of the lowest paid staff.
All regular employees of VCSU are eligible for three course tuition waivers per calendar year, following the guidelines in Human Resource Policy 33. In addition, employees enjoy many training opportunities, including customer service workshops, computer training workshops both on and off campus, and informational workshops during Welcome Week each August.
Valley City State University is committed to maintaining a level of expenditure that will provide both human resources and the environment necessary for effective teaching and learning. Resources are allocated in a manner that will support the goals and strategies of the institution. With enrollment increases, budget allocations are made to hire additional faculty in high demand growth programs. VCSU has continued its commitment to a technology-infused teaching and learning environment by refreshing laptop computers with the latest technology every two years and by allocating resources for technology upgrades in classrooms.
Valley City State University, through the comprehensive North Dakota University System financial audit, receives an unqualified opinion on its financial statements from the North Dakota State Auditor's Office annually. In addition, the North Dakota State Auditor's Office made note at the May 12, 2010 meeting of the North Dakota Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee that the 2007-09 operational audit for VCSU did not contain any findings or recommendations.
Under the current funding model for the North Dakota University System, state funding is allocated based on parity, equity and special initiatives. The parity portion of the model forms the largest portion of the budget request and includes the estimated cost of salary and benefit increases and operating and utility inflation. The equity portion of the request is calculated based on revenue per student for each campus compared to the revenue per student at each campus's set of peer institutions. Equity funding granted through the legislative process has been targeted to campuses that are the farthest behind their peers in terms of funding.
The revenue per student at VCSU is considered to be not significantly behind the average funding at the institution's peer set; VCSU received a small allocation of equity funding until a minimum distribution was adopted by the NDUS in the 2009-11 and 2011-13 bienniums. The allocations for VCSU were $250,000 in 2009-11 and $242,000 in 2011-13. This peer-based portion of the System budget request is no longer a priority of the Legislature and may not exist after the 2011-13 biennium. The 2011 Legislature established an interim committee to study funding models for the University System. A recommendation for performance-based funding is a likely outcome of the committee's work.
Given strong state legislative support, increased grant and contract activity, increased external scholarship funding and increased enrollment, VCSU has experienced significant growth in total revenues available for operations (see Table 5.6). The revenues collected are sufficient to meet current financial obligations and commitments.
The legislative appropriations to the University are primarily from the General Fund with the exception of state bonding for capital improvements in 2003-05 and the allocation from the State Oil Trust Fund of $2,200,000 for replacement of the campus steam distribution system in 2007-09. The history of the General Fund Appropriations is presented in Table 5.7.
Total education and general expenditures include expenditures from all sources of funding including state appropriations, federal and state grants, and other current funds with the exception of auxiliary sales and services. Table 5.8 (next page) gives those expenditures by function over the last four years.
The functions of instruction and academic support are directly related to teaching and learning. These two functions account for over 53% of total operating expenditures for the University. The increase in the percentage of the budget spent in the operation and maintenance of plant function in FY 2010 is the direct result of a state appropriation increase for deferred maintenance. This temporary increase continued through the second year of the biennium, FY 2011.
The financial resources of Valley City State University are managed and records maintained in ConnectND, a PeopleSoft integrated administrative system. The accounting methods used are in accordance with generally accepted accounting standards and National Association of College and University Business Officers guidance. The financial statements are audited annually by the Office of the State Auditor.
The State Board of Higher Education Budget, Audit and Finance Committee, and the ND Legislative Audit and Fiscal Review Committee review audit reports and related recommendations. The most recent audit reports are available in the Vice President for Business Affairs office. An electronic copy is available in the Resource Room.
The budget process includes development of a biennial budget and an annual budget. The biennial budget is prepared every two years in accordance with guidelines and requirements established by the State Board of Higher Education and the State Office of Management and Budget. Prior to establishing the guidelines and requirements, the State Board of Higher Education solicits input from the eleven campuses regarding priorities and initiatives to include in the University System biennial budget request. The State Board also sets the guidelines and approves major capital projects to be included in the System budget submission to the Governor. The biennial budget provides the basis for input into what is included in the Governor's recommended budget for the University System, which is submitted to the North Dakota Legislature.
An annual budget is developed by the University by gathering input from campus constituents, aligning budget requests with university strategic initiatives and following State Board of Higher Education guidelines. The State Board guidelines include consideration of legislative intent as contained in the biennial appropriation bill. Campus input is gathered through a budget request process which includes completion and submission of budget request forms to the Vice President for Business Affairs. The form requires the requestor to include justification of the budget item and an indication of how the item relates to the strategic plan. The requestor is encouraged to include metrics to demonstrate the need for the requested budget allocation. The VCSU Cabinet reviews all budget requests and estimated revenue; makes a determination about which budget requests will advance the institution's strategic initiatives; and allocates available funding or reallocates existing funding to specific budget items. The finalized budget is submitted to the NDUS Chancellor for approval.
VCSU is fortunate to have an array of beautiful and historically significant buildings. Many of these buildings were built at the turn of the last century or at least during the first half of the 20th Century. They are well-built buildings that have been well-maintained, and have served this campus and thousands of students for many decades. However, with older buildings also come significant challenges with deferred maintenance, efficiency standards, accessibility, life safety, and the usual wear-and-tear that can accompany an older building.
VCSU has been active in upgrading, improving, and refreshing the current physical plant. The major capital improvement projects over the last decade include
Available funds are typically spent on deferred maintenance, asset preservation, accessibility, and life-safety projects. During the past biennium (2009-2011), over $2,500,000 has been spent on maintenance needs such as emergency power upgrades, parking lot and sidewalk repair, classroom renovation, tuck-pointing, and roof repair. A complete list of projects can be found in the Campus Master Plan, page 14.
The 2009-10 Master Plan identified space needs for several growth areas in science, where air quality, shared lab spaces, and the need for larger classroom and research areas requires both renovation and expansion. In April 2011, the North Dakota Legislature appropriated $10.3 million in state general fund dollars for the renovation and expansion of Rhoades Science Center, and work has already begun on this project; groundbreaking may take place as early as October 2011.
The 2009-10 Master Plan also indicated that, while there is adequate classroom space to serve current needs (except in Science), many of these spaces have quality issues that affect enrollment, utilization, and learning experiences. The space utilization study determined that technology availability is good throughout campus, but classroom size, flexibility, appearance, control of light, furnishings, and thermal comfort was adequate to poor.
To make a start, VCSU identified two classrooms on the main floor of McFarland for renovation in Summer 2011. Both these classrooms see heavy use throughout the year, including summer workshops, and are particularly visible to campus visitors. However, the primary focus for future renovation must include two issues: the aging Vangstad Auditorium building, and the needs of the Business & Information Technology Division, currently housed in the basement of McFarland Hall, an unattractive and dated environment for a program that has the potential for significant enrollment growth. VCSU hopes to resolve these two issues by seeking authorization and funding in the next biennium to renovate Vangstad as the new home for the Business & Information Technology Division.
The 2009-10 Master Plan outlines a number of additional areas needing attention or development. Two more of significance are renovation and facility improvement at the Student Center (which has not seen significant change in over 20 years), and Fieldhouse upgrades. Since almost 30% of the student body is involved in athletic programs, the Fieldhouse provides space for an active athletic program, in addition to intramural sports and community activities. The dome structure, recently repaired, is adequate for its intended purpose, but the support wing requires more space for offices, locker rooms, exercise facilities, and an indoor, multipurpose space. Both these areas will require attention and planning over the next few years.
The personnel of the Foundation Office consist of an Executive Director of University Advancement who focuses on Planned Giving, Major Gifts, and Corporate Relations; the Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, who is responsible for Alumni, Special Events/Activities and Commencement; and a Data Processor and Research Coordinator, who oversees the management of data, donor records, donor research and reporting. An Assistant Director of Annual Giving will be added to the staff in the fall of 2011 to direct the V-500 Scholarship Campaign, coordinate Social Media functions, do research on donor prospects, and assist with a host of other activities and events in the development office. The positions all report directly to the Executive Director of University Advancement.
The Foundation Board of Directors is charged with oversight of the Foundation. The President of the University is a member of the Board. The Board meets quarterly with the annual meeting scheduled for the September/October time period of each calendar year. The minutes of the meetings are on file in the Foundation Office. An Investment Committee is charged with oversight of the assets of the Foundation. The committee meets a minimum of quarterly and makes recommendations to the full Board of Directors of the Foundation.
The Foundation will celebrate its 15th anniversary in Fall 2011. Assets of the Foundation have grown from approximately $1,000,000 in 1996 to nearly $6,000,000 in 2011. Scholarship support reached a record high of $757,000 in the 2010-2011 academic year. In addition the Foundation has had successful fund drives to enhance VCSU facilities over the years including the replacement of the fieldhouse floor, a drive to secure funding for stadium seating, planetarium lighting, equipment in the music department, a fieldhouse lighting project, reconstruction of the university track, and a fund drive to bring back the track and cross country programs. During the recently completed 2010-2011 fiscal year, the Foundation led a fund drive to install artificial turf on the football field at Lokken Stadium. That project totaled approximately $1,000,000.
The Foundation was able to not only sustain scholarship allocations but actually increase those allocations during a time when the markets were very soft and interest earnings were minimal or non-existent. That was accomplished as a result of strong annual fund drives and accessing reserves.
The Foundation is currently in the process of searching for an additional staff member to serve as the assistant Director of Annual giving. This individual will have primary responsibility for the V-500 Scholarship Program. This will be a major enhancement to the staffing and the overall operation of the Foundation in general. The addition of this staff person will free up time for the Executive Director to focus on Planned Giving, Major Gifts and Corporate Relations.
The ongoing competition for charitable dollars is one of the challenges facing the VCSU Foundation. The local business district is stressed due to record flooding two of the last three years. A significant number of alumni are involved in teaching. Their earning potential is limited which impacts their ability to provide charitable support to their alma mater.
The addition of a staff member will be a significant enhancement to the overall operation of the Foundation. That additional resource will allow for more focus to annual and planned giving and the procurement of major gifts.
The Foundation has expanded outreach activities across the state and region to build relationships with prospective donors and has created a Major Gift Task Force within the Foundation Board of Directors who will focus on the identification, cultivation and solicitation of major gifts.
VCSU has the human, financial, and physical resources necessary to support its educational endeavors. Although salaries in general lag about 15% below market averages, the University is aware of this discrepancy and attempts to improve employee wages annually. The physical plant is well-maintained; the University follows a Master Plan in planning for future improvements.
Strengths: VCSU enjoys the longevity of faculty and staff, many of whom have been at VCSU for most of their professional lives. The stability and institutional knowledge this longevity brings, combined with a campus culture of innovation and change, allows the University to make the necessary changes to meet social and economic change while remaining true to its core values and mission.
New Initiatives: The addition to Rhoades Science Center is set to begin in Fall 2011; students will be reviewing predesign plans for a Student Center upgrade during the 2011-12 academic year. The state legislature is beginning a discussion of funding models for the NDUS campuses, and there will likely be a change in this area in the next five years.
Challenges: Low starting salaries are a continued challenge, although the current economy has favored recent searches. Maintenance on aging buildings is also a continuing challenge.