NKU restructures budget

Lost in the excitement over Northern Kentucky University President James Votruba announcing his intentions to apply in the fall to be a NCAA Division I school was the announcement that professors will be getting raises for the first time in two years, and NKU plans to restructure academic advising.

Changes to NKU’s budget are coming at the recommendation of the Huron Consulting Group, a company NKU contracted to analyze almost every aspect of university operations and offer suggestions on how to improve them.

“Faculty and staff are very deserving [of a raise],” said Provost Gail Wells. “This will be a welcome change for our really high-performing faculty.”

Except for a one-time $750 bonus in December 2010, NKU faculty has not received any increases in pay for the last two years.

Votruba announced April 6 that he will recommend to the Board of Regents that they create a $3.3 million pool to be used for salary raises for faculty and staff.

Full and part-time faculty and staff will be eligible for raises based on their annual performance reviews, but not everyone will get the full three-percent increase. The amount of increase will depend on reviews. Wells said that some faculty will get more than three percent, while some will get less.

Wells said NKU has been able to fund the raises by saving about $5.3 million in next year’s budget by reallocating funds from the current budget, primarily from cuts in adminstrative offices.

Instead of filling positions as they became vacant, Wells said they combined roles, and used the money that went to pay former employees to create the salary pool for next year’s raises.

The funds from raises are not budgeted to come from any tuition increases, because those have not been set. The NKU administration is still waiting on the Council on Postsecondary Education to set the limit on tuition increases for next year before determining what the increase will be.

Another area Votruba said will be addressed in the coming year is academic advising. Votruba said NKU will revise the advising process, creating a more centralized system.

But he acknowledged that the change leaves the door open for people to wonder if NKU will lose the one-on-one attention from faculty students expect. Votruba said he supports more centralized advising, as long as students still get individualized attention.

Vice Provost Pat Moynahan said that no one is sure yet what specific changes will come to academic advising. He added that various directors, deans and faculty have spent the last several months researching how other universities handle advising.

What NKU doesn’t want to do, Moynahan said, is completely overhaul academic advising.

A possible change to academic advising Moynahan described is a “one-stop hub” that will help students find the right person to help them if a problem arises.

Changes to academic advising could add what Moynahan called an additional layer of intervention so advisers can get “more direct contact with students at earlier points in the semester.”

These kind of changes would require more resources in the form of staffing and funding. Wells is creating a committee to discuss how to best restructure academic advising. Moynahan said that students could see some changes as early as the fall 2011 semester.

Story by Cassie Stone