Whether you’re a department chair at a small college or a major research university, we know that preparing each semester’s budget is one of the most stressful and thankless parts of your job. There are so many things to consider: building overhead, office supplies and personnel are the biggies, and you know better than anyone all the little bits and pieces unique to your specialty. Most of the time, colleges rely on departmental budgets and estimates to come in before making their overarching operating budget, so there’s also the pressure of a deadline to deal with.

The Biggest Piece of the Pie

By far, the biggest chunk of any college’s budget is personnel costs, which typically make up about 75 percent of the annual budget. While it’s relatively easy to account for the salaries of tenured faculty and permanent administrators, the real challenge in your budget comes with trying to predict the cost of the ever-changing pool of contract instructors. These teachers are valuable in large part because of their flexibility in filling in any gaps in your schedule, but predicting which instructors you’ll need and which courses will run with varying enrollment each semester is incredibly difficult. With the number of contract instructors on the rise, your budget numbers in the future are going to be even harder to predict.

The Price of Uncertainty

Without a system in place to measure course enrollment accurately and in real-time, it can be impossible to make the right hires in time. Incomplete predictions about enrollment trends and staff availability can lead to hasty hiring decisions that puts an imperfect candidate in front of students. This can have intangible costs if the overall course quality suffers, and very real consequences for your department’s reputation and future financial stability. Having to guess about enrollment also means that otherwise conscientious chairs may make budgeting errors that affect the university as a whole and their own departments specifically.

The Way Forward

We can already hear you asking, “So what’s the solution?” How about a single program that helps you track course enrollment, a list of all available instructors, and student feedback? Our exclusive Chair’s Dashboard manages this data in real time, allowing you to track dynamic changes as they occur so you have the most up-to-date information when finalizing your budget. Best of all, we even offer a module that tracks course revenues and instructor costs automatically, so you can track your department’s financial health with ease.

Photo by GotCredit.