Regents’ program prioritization measures make campus-level impact

Metrics help determine resource allocation

Program prioritization measures in place for the past five years continue to help steer decisions about academic programs at CU campuses.

The Board of Regents heard updates on academic program prioritization from campus representatives during the board’s Sept. 12 meeting at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. The board first requested such metrics in 2013, and began hearing reports from the campuses in 2014.

“The mandate from the board five years ago … has proved extremely useful to our campus,” said Katherine Eggert, CU Boulder’s senior vice provost for academic planning and assessment.

At CU Boulder, administrators measure resource efficiency, degree production, effectiveness of undergraduate teaching, and scholarly accomplishments in determining how academic programs are delivering on the campus mission. Such comparisons help leadership make decisions about space, faculty and other investments.

In slides presented to the board, groupings show many programs – including aerospace, business, computer science and civil engineering – ranked as highly effective. A bottom tier labeled “less than effective” consisted of comparative literature, which was discontinued in 2017, and ATLAS. The latter recently began a new undergraduate degree and minor.

Ann Schmiesing, senior vice provost for academic resource management, said the new ATLAS major is proving wildly successful, with enrollment 30 percent higher than projected. A new undergraduate degree in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and revised undergraduate curriculum in the Department of Cinema Studies also are showing dividends.

Leadership at CU Denver also reported making progress via use of program prioritization metrics. Jennifer Sobanet, CU Denver CFO and senior vice chancellor for administration and finance, said the campus’s adoption of a new incentive-based budget model in the 2017-18 fiscal year helps with program prioritization by incentivizing colleges to grow their revenue streams.

President Mark Kennedy, who had experience with such a budget strategy in the past, said he applauds the efforts. “You really don’t see the fruits of it until the third (budget) year,” he said. “It does make the institution far more entrepreneurial.”

Leadership at UCCS, which also presented on academic prioritization, indicated that their campus soon will follow CU Denver in that incentive-based budget strategy. Kennedy said the model helps bring financial decision-making to deans and department leadership, “so they’ve got skin in the game.”

Because external accreditation dictates much of the scope of programs at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, it was exempted from the academic program prioritization focus in place at the other campuses. Provost Rod Nairn reviewed for the board how programs are examined.