Assessing the Costs and Benefits Associated with Research

Assessing the Costs and Benefits Associated with Research
Fall, 2007
As part of the 2007-08 planning process, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Harry
Hellenbrand asked that a sub-committee on university research be formed. Its task, as stated in
“Planning for 2007-2008: The Context of Decisions,” is to “Construct a model that projects a
relation between investment and results as rolling averages over four years.” He further states in
the document, “We should start by focusing on direct costs (dollars spent on time and purchases)
as well as projects (awards, publications, course changes etc.).” Simply put, he asks that we
measure inputs (i.e., costs) and outputs. Recognizing the centrality of teaching to the mission of
California State University, Provost Hellenbrand also wants a tabulation of student involvement
in faculty led research and the impact of research on students.
One of the outcomes from the work of the sub-committee that Provost Hellenbrand wishes to see
is for the model to assist in the allocation of university resources. As things like start-up costs,
reassigned time, and matches escalate, there needs to be a way of assessing their effectiveness.
Given the current fiscal climate in the CSU, and the likelihood that state funding for higher
education will continue to erode, it is understandable that Provost Hellenbrand wants a close and
reasoned examination of the costs and benefits associated with scholarship, which can then be
used in his budget decisions.
The members of the subcommittee were Carrie Saetermoe, Tim Karels, S. Ramesh, David Moon,
Bill Jennings, Spero Bowman, Mack Johnson, Carol Bartell, Doug Yule, and Jerry Stinner
(Chair). At its first meeting, Provost Hellenbrand discussed his charge for the subcommittee and
the rationale. He asked that general recommendations be sent to him by October.
The members of the subcommittee are pleased that Provost Hellenbrand so strongly recognizes
the importance of research at CSUN and makes it a part of the planning process. We were quite
happy to serve on such an important sub-committee. We believe that CSUN, like other public
four-year universities in the U.S., must take greater responsibility for its future by “privatizing”
and that research is not an optional activity in the California State University system but rather is
essential to faculty development and quality classroom instruction. Below are brief discussions of
privatization of U.S. universities, research as part of the mission of the CSU, and our
Privatization of Higher Education
The privatization of public higher education started in the 1980s and is a nationwide phenomenon
brought on by shrinking state support and escalating costs. With the Reagan revolution of the
1980s there was a reduction in the value of the state income tax deductions on federal income tax
returns. This led to a movement by taxpayers to cut state income tax. Additionally, states are
increasingly unable to collect taxes on the goods that consumers buy. Most states levy taxes on
goods, but exclude services like healthcare, household repairs, and Internet connections. In 1960,
families spent 41 cents of every dollar on services. In 2003, they spent 58 cents. At the same time,
costs for public services that states provide have dramatically increased, especially for health
care, the criminal justice system, and primary and secondary schools. For example, Medicaid
accounted for 8% of state budgets in 1985, but now accounts for 22%. In California, 14.7 billion
dollars of the 2007-08 general fund is for Medical and 41.4 billion dollars is for K-12 education.
Together, Medical, K-12, and corrections accounts for 63% of California’s 2007-08 general fund.
Caught in the squeeze, states have been forced to make deep cuts in expenditures. Funding for
higher education is discretionary; it receives what is left over after other budget decisions have
been made. The result is that it is used to cover deficits in other areas. In 1980, 10% of state
budgets went to higher education, but had fallen to 7% in 2000. In 1970, CSU and UC combined
received 7% of the state’s general fund, but now receive 3.5%. From 2002 to 2004 alone, state
governments cut higher education appropriations by almost 10% after inflation. From 2002 to
2005, appropriations for CSU were cut by $522MM.
As a result, in many four-year public institutions state funding has fallen below 20% of their total
revenue. In 1980, 44% of a student’s education at a public institution was covered by the state. In
2003 only 32% was. Cost cutting by public institutions has resulted in higher student-to-faculty
ratios, from 17.3 in 1971 to 15.7 in 1997. For the CSU over the same time interval, student-tofaculty ratio increased from 18 to 20. But even more dramatic has been the effect upon tenuretrack faculty hires. Between 1995 and 2003, 2,450 tenured positions disappeared nationwide. In
1975, 43% of faculty positions were non-tenure-track (Instructors and part-time), compared with
58% in 1995, and 65% in 2003. From 1980 to 2003, ftes in the CSU rose from 238,646 to
321,507, a remarkable 35% increase. At the same time, the number of tenure-track faculty
actually decreased by 1%.
The distressing trends toward higher faculty workloads and decreased tenure-track hires are likely
to continue as long as public institutions of higher education rely primarily upon state funding.
Disturbingly, the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts,
found that the attitude of legislators towards funding higher education had changed. Traditionally,
public higher education was viewed as a social good that yields benefits to the nation as a whole.
Legislators no longer view higher education this way. Having heard the message that a college
degree translates into higher earnings, policymakers have concluded that a college education in
fact contributes more to individual advancement than to a nation’s social fabric. They therefore
believe that students and their families should pay a greater share of the costs of higher education.
The message is clear: In order to survive, public four-year institutions must aggressively seek
additional funding streams. In a word, we must be entrepreneurs. Curiously, the CSU Board of
Trustees opposes privatization in the CSU. In Access to Excellence, a revision of the strategic
plan Cornerstones, the Trustees in Section I.5 state, “Higher education has seen a dwindling share
of state resources in California and in most other states. The result has been budget cuts, tuition
increases, and threats to affordable access and quality. The response from many institutions has
been to begin to privatize-to pursue the funds and priorities necessary to maintain institutional
success. This is an untenable path for California State University: while finding appropriate ways
to increase the flow of external resources, it must maintain its public identity to serve state needs;
and to do that, it must continue to be a public funding priority.” The members of the research subcommittee are sympathetic with serving the needs of the state. But given the realities of the
powerful social and economic forces at work outlined above, we do not believe that future state
funding will sustain even the current level of success at CSU.
The Value of Research in the CSU
CSUN, formerly named San Fernando Valley State College, was founded in 1958. Its main
mission was to train primary and secondary teachers. In 1960 the Master Plan for Higher
Education in California authorized the CSU to offer Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, take the
leading role in preparing teachers, and play a minor role in research. At that time only about 30%
of Assistant Professors hired into the CSU had doctorates.
Today, over 80% of Assistant Professors have Doctorates and many have extensive post-doctoral
experience in research labs before coming to the CSU. The change in faculty hiring produced a
seismic shift in the attitude towards scholarship. Most faculty now feel that the discovery of new
knowledge and dissemination of that knowledge is fundamental to their professional development
and classroom instruction. In 1989 the California State Legislature produced the Final Report of
the Joint Committee for Review of the Master Plan for Higher Education. Recognizing the
change in culture, it states “Central to the role of any decent teaching institution is the research,
scholarly and creative activity essential to the development of good teaching, and essential as a
part of the education of students. The state should acknowledge this in the Mission of the
California State University and endeavor to support it.” As a result, the California State Education
Code was amended so that the mission of the CSU included “research, scholarship, and creative
activity in support of its undergraduate and graduate instructional mission.” The 1997 strategic
planning Cornerstones Report states “The California State University will reinvest in its faculty to
maintain its primary mission as a teaching-centered comprehensive university. Faculty
scholarship, research and creative activity are essential components of that mission.” In the
revision of Cornerstones, called Access To Excellence, there is specific recognition for the need
to support high performance in faculty and to recognize research (Domain 5).
Recently, the senior research officers from each CSU campus prepared a draft document titled On
The Role of Scholarly Research and Creative Activities In The CSU: Talking Points Submitted
for Discussion At Academic Council. In this excellent report, which has now been approved by
the Board of Trustees and is policy, the authors describe the value of research and scholarly
activity and make recommendations for how to enhance it. The value of research and scholarly
activity discussed in the draft includes: 1) Keeps faculty knowledgeable and engaged. 2) Provides
stronger student preparation for the workforce. 3) Brings distinction and prestige to the
university. 4) External funds from grants and contracts support campus-related activities such as
faculty and student research, curriculum and program development, and technology in the
classroom. 5) External funds support community-related activities, benefiting directly the citizens
of California. 6) Recruitment and retention of the best faculty and the best students. 7) Promotion
of the goals of diversity through interactive and participatory learning. As the authors
perceptively conclude, “Creation of new knowledge is of intrinsic value in and of itself, and a
central obligation of all universities.” The members of this sub-committee wholeheartedly agree.
Recommendations by the Subcommittee on Research
We recommend that research “input” and “output” data be collected from all faculty members.
This data will be collected annually by means of an Excel spreadsheet (see attached). The data
should be collected in February in time for the March college plans deadline, and cover the
previous calendar year. The data should be stored in a central “data warehouse” where it can be
accessed by Department Chairs, Deans, the Provost, and other central administrators.
The attached spreadsheet lists the types of research-related activities that the committee members
felt were most pertinent and that they were most familiar with. We suggest that before
implementation it is important that each college have a chance to review the draft spreadsheet,
and where necessary add their college specific scholarship not covered in the draft. However, the
members of the subcommittee tried to be general and inclusive. We do not wish to see a long list
of narrowly defined categories. For example, the category “creative activities” could include
musical compositions, plays, and paintings. Jerry Stinner and Mack Johnson volunteered to meet
with the individual colleges to explain the spreadsheet and the importance of participation by
faculty members. Note that on the draft spreadsheet, the first set of items are research “outputs”,
the second set are research “inputs” (or costs), and the third set are effects of research upon
In addition, the members of the subcommittee recommend that a summary of the data be prepared
each year for the Provost. It will contain a calculation of Return Over Investment (ROI), selected
metrics of faculty research productivity, and the number of students impacted by university
scholarship (see attached). We believe that this summary will be extremely valuable to the
Provost in championing the value of research to the President, Chancellor’s Office, legislators,
and anyone else who has a stake in the future of scholarship at CSUN.
Finally, the members recommend an annual CSUN faculty research recognition day which could
be coordinated with the current student research symposium. There could be a poster session,
keynote speaker(s), and awards. The purpose of the Faculty Research Symposium would be to
honor those faculty members who are involved in scholarship, raise awareness of research on
campus, and foster collaboration by bringing together faculty members from different disciplines.
We suggest that an interdisciplinary committee of scholars be formed with the task of organizing
the first Faculty Research Symposium.
C:/Misc/Assessing the Costs and BeneftitsAssociated w/Research10-18-07
Faculty Research/Scholarship and Creative Activity
Information Profile (2007)
1. Research Outcomes
External Grant Proposals Submitted (list title, agency, amount
New External Grants Awarded (list title, agency, amount awarded)
Continuing External Grants (list title, agency, amount)
Publications (provide citations)
1. Refereed Publications
2. Books Published
3. Chapters Published
4. Technical Reports
5. Other
Creative Activities
Conferences/Invited Presentations
Community Involvement
New Curriculum Developed
2. Student Outcomes
Students mentored who were supported by research grants
Student conferences/presentations
Students receiving grants, awards, fellowships
Students accepted into graduate and professional programs
Students authoring papers
3. Amount Of INTERNAL Support Received From CSUN
Reassigned Time WTU’s
Research Summary Sheet
External grant dollars/startup, reassigned time, inhouse grants
Faculty Data
Number of refereed publications
Number of patents
Number of conference presentations
Number of advanced level courses
Student Data
Number completing research projects (undergraduate and graduate)
Number supported by grants
Number of conference presentations
Number entering graduate/professional schools
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