Standard 7 -- Finance
MSU Billings has a long-standing reputation for stability and excellence in financial management. It consistently operates within annual budgets, annual audits have found no irregularities, and the few suggestions made by auditors have been appropriately addressed. Just as notable, the administrative leadership and staff have expertise that is used across the university — from budgeting for academic planning to enrollment management forecasting. That expertise and commitment to Access and Excellence at all levels significantly contributes to delivery of a unique studentlearning experience and demonstrates responsible stewardship of resources.
Summary & Analysis
MSU Billings has a longstanding reputation for stability and excellence in financial management. It has consistently operated within annual budgets, annual audits have found no irregularities and the few suggestions made by auditors have been addressed. MSU Billings regularly maintains a balanced budget and the enrollment reserve model, pioneered by Chancellor Ronald Sexton, has become a requirement for all units of the system.
- Financially, MSU Billings’ ultimate strength is the administrative insistence on a balanced budget, sound fiscal management and regular fiscal audits.
- MSU Billings financial personnel have the knowledge, experience and institutional history to assure this financial stability and strength continues, as well as, to assist unit administrators with managing their budgets and responsible use of limited resources.
- The administrative leadership and staff have high levels of expertise that is used across the University to help provide outstanding student-learning opportunities at all levels.
- MSU Billings strives to involve the University community in the budgeting process.
- MSU Billings continues to benefit from strong community financial support, evidenced by the MSU Billings Foundation. The Foundation raised over $30 million during a five-year capital campaign.
- The MSU Billings Foundation holds 197 named, endowed funds totaling $15.8 million. The endowments produce annual income for student scholarships, faculty excellence, and university programs.
- Decrease in the percentage of state funding accompanied by increases in student tuition. Although the total dollar amount of state funding has consistently risen, the allocations have not kept up with inflation. The challenge lies not only in maintaining equitable pay, quality services and a well-kept University environment, but in educating Montana taxpayers as to the realities of providing post secondary education and in demonstrating accountability to them.
- Montana University System funding models. MSU Billings has an increasing percentage of students enrolling part-time. Headcounts have increased on both campuses while student FTE declines. Recognizing this challenge for all units of the MUS, OCHE and the BOR established a task force to study the issue and possible alternative funding models. Currently, the funding process is based on the current base budget with inflation factors, the state pay plan and new initiatives added. The Montana Legislature determines funding and deliberations are taking place between higher education officials and the Governor’s Office to determine funding recommendations.
- Ensuring appropriate and continuing involvement of the University Community in the budgeting process. Revitalization of the Academic Senate Budget Committee with revised by-laws and increased constituency representation.
- Ensuring adequate funds to address deferred maintenance and upgrading of facilities in auxiliaries. Maintenance and upgrade projects are prioritized in order to complete projects according to acute and chronic needs.
- Ensuring adequate resources for instruction. As annual budgets require adjustments in order to balance and not fall into a deficit model, Academic Affairs is protected to the extent possible without jeopardizing the quality of student services or the physical environment.
- Declining enrollments/graduates in Montana high schools. As the numbers of high school graduates decline, the University may experience declining revenues unless alternative revenue sources are developed.
- Relatively low salaries make it difficult to recruit well qualified faculty, staff and administrators.
- Governor’s 2010 energy plan to have all state agencies reduce their energy consumption by 20% by the year 2010. This is an aggressive and truly challenging goal especially in light of the University’s implementation and use of new energy-reliant educational technology to enhance student learning.
- The costs of assessment. Adequately collecting, analyzing and using data to make informed decisons will have associated costs to many areas of the University. MSU Billings will need to address those costs in an strategic and balanced way.
- Full implementation of Banner. While some of aspects of the Banner system are in place, other modules (electronic degree monitoring, document imaging, alumni and workflow) remain to be fully implemented.