May 18-20, 2005

PART B

ITEM 127-133-R0505                  Board of Regents/OCHE Operational Priority Issues

 

Proposed Action Item:             Create an Information Management Position in the Office of the Commissioner.

 

State Need:                              Good policy begins with good information.  Policymakers, including the Regents and their staff, need to start with reliable data that will tell the story about performance and conditions in their state.

 

Current information about Montana’s postsecondary education “pipeline” is not readily available or routinely reported.  Montana also lacks a student unit record system to track students throughout their educational careers.  Currently, data is not collected or analyzed in a comprehensive manner that allows monitoring and analysis of student movement throughout Montana’s educational system, P-20. 

 

Access-related data is not consistently disaggregated to allow an analysis of the participation and performance of sub-groups such as low-income or minority students.  This makes targeting high-need segments of the Montana population difficult.  Qualitative data related to access (e.g. student/family “college knowledge,” student aspirations, or parental/family support for postsecondary education) is based on anecdotal evidence, sporadic surveys, and random sampling.

 

Montana also has little information about potential students who do not enroll or apply for financial aid.  Investigating and reporting reasons for these “left out students” would determine what combination of additional information, encouragement, or financial assistance would be most effective in increasing college matriculation and completion rates.   Clearly, the State needs information in a number of key access-related areas in order to make well-informed decisions.

 

The Commissioner’s staff also lacks basic system financial and human resources data.  What data does exist is usually compiled manually from information provided by the respective campuses.  This makes it very difficult to track system performance and nearly impossible to evaluate time series data.  These issues are well described in Item 127-121-R0505 (Administration and Budget Committee)

 

Proposed Solution:                  Create a position of Information Manager in the Commissioner’s Office to coordinate inter-campus information management, data issues, and systems changes.  The position will focus primarily on the immediate needs of providing much better system data availability and management.  The position will have a secondary mission of working with the campus CIOs to evolve toward common inter-campus IT systems where possible

 

State Investment:  University system data and information technology (IT) issues will inherently involve coordination with key staff at the campuses, so this position will be filled by someone with enough experience to operate confidently at a senior level.  The Information Manager position would likely report to the Associate Commissioner of Fiscal Affairs with a loaded cost (salary plus benefits) target of $98,000 per year. 

 

Return on Investment:             Creation of this position is essential if the Regents and Commissioner are to ever have reliable and timely system-wide data.  Having an Information Manager will yield the following savings or improvements:

·         Reduced turnover of staff.  Lack of available data is probably the biggest single pressure faced by the OCHE staff.  The agonizing process of collecting and manually manipulating data leads to questionable system-wide accuracy and consistency.  The inability to have confidence in system data, and therefore the analysis based on that data, has a serious moral impact on staff.

·         Much lower costs and disruption when we do have staff turnover.  The principle way organizations avoid near-total disaster when key people leave is to have good record keeping and data systems.  The current system relies on people with great institutional memory knowing all the idiosyncrasies and nuances of the myriad campus systems rather than solid, consistent basic data.

·         Achieve scale efficiencies.  Without anyone at the system level to help coordinate system hardware/software changes, we are sure to miss opportunities to leverage our size.  This position is not designed to force synchronization, but without the right skills to even spot opportunity the Commissioner’s office and Regents have little opportunity to start building stronger collaboration.

·         Better accountability and decision-making.  We have almost no way to verify or crosscheck information from the campuses and what we can do is often too late to properly influence decision-making.  It is almost inconceivable that, in a $1.8 billion (biennial) enterprise, we do not have opportunities to a better job of budgeting, allocating funds, and setting tuition/fee policies.  In non-financial policy areas, it is also inconceivable that we do not have opportunities to affect college-going and success rates that would manifest themselves if we had comprehensive and consistent time-series data across the state.

·         Ability to conduct and coordinate better research.  The Regents have had discussions about the need for a senior-level institutional research position.  Since system-wide data are not readily available, the Commissioner needs to address the overall technology and data issues before assessing the value of adding an institutional research professional.  With the addition of an Information Management position the Commissioner’s office will be able to work even more closely with the institutional research offices of the campuses to meet BOR and OCHE needs.


May 18-20, 2005

PART C

ITEM 127-133-R0505                  Board of Regents/OCHE Operational Priority Issues

 

Proposed Action Item:             Create a position for a Fiscal Administrative Assistant in the Office of the Commissioner.

 

State Need:                              The Montana University System is a more than $900 million per year enterprise and is appropriated almost 12% of the State’s general fund each year.  Accurate and efficient oversight of the system’s financial aspects is critical.

 

The OCHE fiscal staff currently operates with 6 people, including the Associate Commissioner, Budget Director and Office Accounting Manager, without any administrative support.   This diverts key staff time and resources away from management functions and often makes it very difficult to provide timely and accurate information to the Commissioner, Regents, and other state policymakers.

 

Proposed Solution:                  Create one position for an administrative assistant to support the fiscal office staff.  This position would report to the Associate Commissioner for Fiscal Affairs with a loaded cost target of $42,000 per year.

 

Return on Investment:             This position will allow for a much more efficient division of labor in the office and will yield the following savings/improvements:

·         Better retention and hiring.  It has been noted by fiscal staff at the campuses that we will probably need an administrative support person just to be able to attract a qualified individual to replace Rod Sundsted.  This is in recognition that almost every large campus or state system fiscal office in the country has at least some dedicated administrative support. 

·         Better policymakers’ support for large, critical financial decisions.  Requiring senior staff to perform work that can be handled by less-senior staff takes valuable time and resources away from the bigger issues that require the highest level of critical thinking.  The increasing demands on the CHE fiscal staff have made, and will continue to make this problem more pronounced over time.

·         Better continuity and records management.  Without administrative support, data and records management rests principally with the individual.  When inevitable turnover occurs it becomes highly disruptive since, by definition, 100% of the records keeping management for that position departs simultaneously.  Continuous improvement in a large organization depends on consistent, accessible information and this position will provide that stability to the fiscal office.


May 18-20, 2005

PART D

ITEM 127-133-R0505                  Board of Regents/OCHE Operational Priority Issues

 

Proposed Action Item:             “Backfill” funding for the Deputy Commissioner of Academic and Student Affairs to allow continued efforts in improving statewide access to education and success in the postsecondary system.

 

State Need:                              In Montana, and the entire United States, the global economy has made at least some postsecondary education “the price of admission” to the middle class and increasing wages over time.  For instance, 31% of manufacturing jobs -- traditionally the foundation of our middle class in America -- now require education beyond a high school diploma compared with only 8% thirty years ago.  In virtually all industries, jobs that do not require high skill levels are moving to low-wage economies and those that remain increasingly require advanced training.  During the next 15 years, this country is projected to have a shortage of 21 million workers and two-thirds of these shortages will be in jobs requiring some postsecondary education.  Demographic projections make it likely this shortage will be more pronounced, not less, in Montana relative to the rest of the country.

Education is undeniably linked to economic prosperity.  Several studies have calculated that increasing a country’s average level of schooling by one year correlates to increased economic growth of between 5-15%.  Education is also highly correlated with earning potential for individuals.  As a group, workers who have at least some postsecondary education earn 62% more on average than those with only a high school education and the gap is widening.  According to Tom Mortenson of the Pell Institute, postsecondary education “has become the dominant factor in the growth of personal incomes and the living standards of people, families, cities and states.”

 

The Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education is responsible for special projects that affect the academic operation of the Montana University System.  In recent years, those projects have included mathematics and writing proficiency standards for admission, the P-20 initiative with K-12 education, staff assistance to the Board of Education and its committees, Title II grants to improve teacher quality, Indian Education for All, and the transfer audit.  A major issue requiring additional time, effort, and leadership will be continued support of Indian Education For All and Shared Leadership.  Responsibility for those projects is divided among current employees in the Commissioner's office, but many of those employees were hired for other activities and many are funded by grants that increasingly restrict non-grant activity.  An indirect cost approval process that is currently being reviewed at the federal level is almost certain to diminish our ability to dedicate staff time to these non-primary duties, even at the current level of commitment. 

 

Proposed Solution:                  The Commissioner’s Office needs the authority to create the equivalent of one position to support the Deputy Commissioner.  This will take the form of both reorganizing the duties within the office and the addition of one or more part-time employees.  The individual(s) filling this position will report to the Deputy Commissioner with a total cost target of $50,000 per year.

 

Return on Investment:             With the changing federal requirements,  $50,000 of current funding will need to be shifted to federal grant efforts, mostly in the Talent Search Program that has been highly successful in improving disadvantaged students’ enrollment and success in postsecondary education in Montana.  The funds shift will likely be used to fill a currently vacant position of Program Coordinator II under the MAP titles.  When that occurs, this requested funding would allow the very important outreach and coordination efforts currently underway to continue.  These efforts are:

·         Staffing the P-20 Committee and working to build an infrastructure whereby the Office of the Commissioner and the MUS have strong and comprehensive links between OPI, the BPE and the K-12 community in general with regard to P-20 efforts.

·         Expanding the involvement of key stakeholders around the state for the P-20 initiative.  Developing local and regional P-20 working groups/councils and formal P-20 involvement by key organizations and stakeholders are current priorities. 

·         Forming and staffing additional P-20 task forces/committees that are being added to the committee’s agenda, including the Counseling Leadership Initiative, which is now under the P-20 committee. 

·         Developing a formal P-20 Integrated Data Task Force proposal prior to the July BOE meeting. 

·         Working with the MUS campuses in areas related to the P-20 committee and effort.  This will include consulting with and including the Chief Student Affairs Officers more directly in the P-20 effort. 

·         Providing outreach and coordination for the P-20 efforts with our Tribal Colleges and the BOE Indian Education for All Committee.

·         Continued support of the Shared Leadership Access committee, which has laid the foundation for increased focus on what is required to expand participation in postsecondary education in Montana.  This position will support continued work in the areas of generating better data and reports, collaborating with SAF, marketing, and developing a plan to enable the business community to become directly involved in access efforts in their local communities.