Departmental Funding Disparity Provokes Discussion

In terms of both student interest and faculty numbers, some academic departments on campus are inevitably bigger than others. When it comes to departmental funding, the same discrepancies are present. Heads of the departments do not compare numbers, though Dean Emily Chan, Associate Dean of Academic Programs & Strategic Initiatives and Associate Professor of Psychology, is aware of these discrepancies.

Each department is allocated money so that they can provide equal opportunities, no matter the subject field. The monetary amount varies from department to department but is not based on headcount. Many students who are not majors in a particular department still enroll in that department’s courses, particularly in departments like Math and Political Science. Some departments have more majors, more faculty, or a more popular program, but those factors do not solely determine their funding.

Courses in science departments require more expensive equipment and therefore have greater associated costs in putting a student through the class. This is in contrast to a situation like an English literature class, where the cost is much less. The distribution of money is not a perfect science, but the administration works to present and maintain equal opportunities and options for all academic departments.

Many students perceive the Political Science department to have the most funding out of all the other departments. This common perception is actually true, as Dean Chan cited endowment funds for the Political Science department’s dominant budget.

In addition, political science is one of the larger departments on campus because there are several variations of the major: political science, international political economy, history and political science, and classics, history, and politics. In addition, political science classes are popular for many career paths besides the obvious routes of law school or a job in politics: many students end up in business.

Professor Bob Lee, department head of Political Science, was unaware that the Political Science department had the most money. He assumed that this was not the case of any “favoritism” by the college, but rather because the department was lucky in receiving endowments.

Another possibility is the increased attention to the Political Science department due to the election, presidential symposium, and increased amount of speakers. The Political Science department helped fund the events on campus, but had other endowment funds and areas contribute.

Overall, the Political Science department “considers [themselves] fortunate to have endowments to help fund these projects,” said Lee. A great deal of wealthy alums have made important contributions to the college to benefit the department, as well as parents, families, and alums from all department fields.

Two principle funders are Bob Selig and Bob Manning from the Board of Trustees, who have created endowments to support various programs. Funds are used to allow student research, pay for prizes for academic excellence, subsidize food for classes, support advisory committees, and bring in visiting speakers. Another big project this year was a series aimed at bringing together opposing political perspectives, which was facilitated in cooperation with the Butler Center.

Dean Chan was also able to explain the breakdown of the income and the difference between gifts and endowments. Gifts are a donation that can be spent whenever, usually in the fiscal year they were gifted, and spent on anything the department likes unless dedicated for a particular purpose. The advancement division handles the gifts that go into the general fund.

Endowments are something to be invested, with a yearly income earned. The income is the money spent, but as an endowment builds so does the income. There are many legal restrictions, documents, and guidelines on exactly how the endowments can be used. Endowments are usually very large gifts, and large gifts with long-term goals often turn into endowments. It is important that the college does not become dependent on endowments and maintains a good balance. Schools that simply sit on their endowments or use it as the main source of payment for their professors struggle in times like the 2008 housing crisis. In that time, CC also had to “tighten our belts, but we did not starve,” said Chan.

When a department uses money, there is a checks and balances system in place requiring two signatures of administrators without conflicting interests to make sure the money is being appropriately used. In addition, purchases are randomly audited through a generator through the Finance Office. Any expenditure over $10,000 must be signed by a vice president of the college. All the forms are available to the public and the college claims it tries to be as transparent as possible.

Income is also earned through foundation grants and federal funding such as financial aid. Unlike larger colleges, Colorado College does become a co-owner or buy a small share in tech transfer or intellectual property companies by faculty or students to gain profit. Once the income is sorted, it goes to President Jill Tiefenthaler and her cabinet of vice presidents to then be distributed to the leadership of each department for more specific needs.

At the highest level, they set the budget to address the most serious matters. The yearly budget for specific departments does not vary much, but departments can ask for more money if there is a specific initiative they would like to pursue or there is a steady increase in size of the department. The fiscal year ends June 30 and begins July 1, so winter is usually the time the department budget is re-evaluated.

Usually a department will go a bit into the red while another will have a little extra to spend. Over the course of the three-year rolling average the leadership lays out, the net will be zero. Department heads and the deans are very careful and fiscally responsible with the money.

A huge initiative was launched this semester that makes sure students know where they can get money if they need it. By visiting CC’s website and searching student funding, all the categories for grants or scholarships are neatly grouped. Some of the resources include endowments to cover health emergencies, cultural funds to bring in speakers, funds to pursue outdoor education, internships, studying abroad, and much more.

In addition, there is a section on each department page detailing opportunities to receive money for research and academic excellence prizes.

Emily Kressley

Emily Kressley

Emily, class of 2020, is an environmental policy major originally from Essex, Conn. While she is drawn to Colorado for its mountains and skiing, she has found strong communities within the CC Cutthroat rugby team, Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and, of course, The Catalyst staff.

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