To All Regional Campus Faculty:
As you know, as Ohio University converts from quarters to semesters, the Provost has charged us with creating a workload policy that is workload neutral and financially neutral. We know from numerous discussions over the last two years that, without dramatic changes in our practices, such as teaching classes in large lecture halls or large on-line classes without additional remuneration for faculty, the only way RHE can effectively accomplish both of these goals is to adopt a standard workload representing the exact mathematical equivalency of the translation of the quarter system to semesters. This translation of the base teaching workload of 36 quarter credits equals 24 semester credits with equivalent student enrollment.
In terms of workload neutrality, we know from our discussions that this conversion makes the amount of time in front of the classroom identical and shortens the academic year by one week. We also know that, while many faculty in this semester model will experience an increase in the number of classes they will teach at one time, the same faculty will teach one course less each year. Faculty are free to organize their teaching to require annually in semesters the same number of quizzes, tests, papers etc. that they did in the annual quarter model.
The issue of financial neutrality is more complex. As we enter our first year in semesters, we need to be financially cautious. While RHE finances are in good shape through our past prudent financial management, we need to be aware of a number of factors that will impact us in the years ahead and especially in this first year. First and foremost we need to recall that the RHE education model and its financial structure is fundamentally different from that at Athens. Because the tuition we charge to students is approximately one-half that charged at the main campus, not all of the following factors can be equivalent to those at Athens: faculty teaching load; median faculty salary, and proportion of classes taught by full-time faculty. In recent years we have focused on increasing average faculty salary with some success.
Now, as we face difficult choices among models to convert from quarters to semesters, we are beset by a "perfect storm" of financial issues.
Consider the following issues:
Research tells us that Universities almost always experience a drop in enrollment due to the switch from quarters to semesters. Enrollment returns to normal two or three years later but we would be wise to expect a reduction in enrollment of about 5% to 7% for 2-3 years beginning in Fall of 2012.
The state's financial situation remains extremely uncertain. Starting three years ago, and for a period of two years, cuts in state subsidy were replaced by federal stimulus money. When this stimulus money was discontinued, a genuine cut in subsidy took place. This amounts to an approximate annual loss of $3,700,000 per year for RHE, continuing annually into every future year. Impacts on each campus depend upon the relative size of each campus budget and vary from $420,000to $906,000. More cuts or reductions in subsidy are possible, or even likely, depending on whom we ask.
As you know, the University is moving all units toward Responsibility Centered Management (RCM) in the near future. We do not know yet how this might impact our overhead charges or the costs of main campus services used on regional campuses.
Enrollments were down by about 4% in Fall 2011 across the RHE system. Individual campus enrollments in Fall ranged from an increase of 5% to a decline of 12%. As the economy improves, potential students return to work. Many unemployed individuals who chose to return to school while unemployed have now exhausted their eligibility for financial aid.
New federal financial aid rules will also act to lessen enrollment. These rules allowed continued enrollment by students who did exceptionally poorly their first term. This new rule has been called "One strike and you are out."
Our conversion to a new student information data base system (PeopleSoft) has cost us some enrollment in Summer and Fall quarters due to delays in registration and financial aid notifications and general confusion caused by the new system.
Most important, Ohio is in a period of decline in high school graduates. Between 2008 and 2014 high school graduates in Ohio will have declined by 10%. By Fall of 2015, a small uptick in high school graduates is projected.
To examine ways to accomplish this conversion while meeting the Provost's expectations of developing a conversion that was neutral in terms of workload and finances, former Executive Dean Dan Evans appointed a Faculty Workload Committee of faculty and some staff representing all the campuses. A draft report was created and circulated for comment and input. Numerous additional meetings of this Committee and faculty discussions at various campuses were held. The Deans and I appreciate all the input we have received including a number of alternate proposals for workload models. Some of these would emulate the policies in main campus departments where research and doctoral teaching weighs much more heavily than on our campuses. Some proposed a teaching load of 21 semester hours; some 18 semester hours. Unfortunately none of these were able to address the issue of financial neutrality. In fact, all are financially untenable and would endanger the financial stability of our current system.
We should also note that we are not alone among Ohio public institutions in current or very recent conversions from quarters to semesters. All other Ohio public universities with branches have converted or are converting their 36-credit quarter teaching loads to 24-credit semesters loads. (An exception is Ohio State which had a lesser load before and after the conversion.) If we compared ourselves to our colleagues in Athens we note that, while there is great variation among colleges and departments, some colleges have a provision for teaching loads of 24 and 21 semester credits.
The Deans and I recognize and applaud the good work of regional campus faculty and the fact that, despite heavy teaching loads, many faculty also accomplish very significant work in scholarship and service. In recognition of this, and with all the preceding information as background, the Deans and I offer for your consideration the following workload policy that takes into account the significant discussions we have had. I am hopeful this will be acceptable to the Faculty as an alternative to the 24-seemster load that will have to be implemented for all faculty in the Fall.
Although none of the workload proposals submitted, including this one, are revenue neutral, the deans feel that with continued prudent financial management, this proposal, allowing up to 75% of faculty who are defined as active scholars to receive a 3-credit reduction, is affordable. (Indeed, such proposals can't be revenue neutral unless they equate to 24 semester credits of teaching or, again, by our traditional standards, entail large lecture halls or large on-line classes without additional faculty compensation.) I am hopeful that the faculty will concur with this proposal as described below and in the attached documents. We are optimistic that the support of Faculty for this proposal will enable the deans to gain the Provost's approval despite its lack of financial neutrality.
As you know from our discussions, in the attached documents, "faculty with substantial scholarship" has been defined in a preliminary way as faculty who have published a refereed journal article (or book, book chapter, substantial external grant, or significant juried creative activity) or have made professional presentations to peers within the last two years. Faculty who have done so will have a 21-credit teaching load in Academic Year 2012-13. Proposed revisions to this standard are acceptable provided that the definition does not exceed 75% of faculty for AY 2012-13. This new proposed system of allocating release time to faculty scholars will replace the current faculty release time system based on applications and awards. Thus, the RHE Course Release Programs, including the Three-Course Release and One-Course Release (aka Special Scholarship) will be discontinued and no awards granted for AY 2012-13.
Because of the financial impact of this proposed workload policy and our uncertain fiscal environment, even if permission is granted by the Provost to implement this proposed policy in Fall of 2012, we need to consider this authorization as on a year-by-year approval basis for the next three years. I will ask the Faculty Workload Committee to reconvene, to solicit comments from faculty members on all campuses and to begin the process of proposing standards for scholarship activity that will achieve the 75% goal this coming academic year. In addition I will ask the Committee to propose standards and procedures for implementing possible expansion or contraction of the proportion of faculty who can receive scholarship reductions in future years depending on our financial situation and enrollment.