New Horizons Initiative aims to remedy budget troubles

Jennifer Nacin

Amid budget slices and challenges, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has created an initiative that aims to improve the condition of the college.

An open forum, hosted by the Liberal Arts and Sciences Representative Assembly, will allow faculty and staff to discuss the “New Horizons Initiative” on Feb. 2.

The initiative, a one-year study assembled by the LAS Budget Advisory Group, analyzes the budget cuts the college has endured during the last four years and what it has done to courses, departments and employment. It provides a list of recommendations, in hopes of aiding the college in meeting the challenges created by these cuts.

Paul Lasley, chairman of the LAS Budget Advisory Group, said he will present the Budget Advisory Group report. Lasley, professor and chairman of the department of sociology, will also introduce suggestions the group has made that will hopefully allow the college to improve itself while keeping within the specified budget during the forum.

“Our charge was to look at: Are there ways that we can restore some budget flexibility within the college to fund high priority efforts, and are there areas where reorganization would be beneficial,” he said.

One recommendation, he said, is to make curricular changes within the college to make better use of faculty time and college funds.

“We want to hear from faculty whether or not we have overlooked some ideas,” he said.

Robert Wallace, member of LAS Representative Assembly and professor of ecology, evolution and organismal biology, said because of the many budget cuts the college has been through, this initiative is crucial in ensuring the most efficient use of available dollars.

The committee aims to protect the college’s core courses and achieve its mission simultaneously, Lasley said. The committee searched for ways to better fund faculty retention and spousal accommodations. It also searched for ways to ensure the college employs the best faculty possible.

“In the last four years, we have seen a significant budget cut, which is around $6 million and a total of seven budget cuts,” Wallace said. “The general thrust of the initiative is to critically review how the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences delivers its mission function at the departmental and program levels.”

Wallace said the college has some limitations on the courses and programs it offers. This initiative suggests ways to use available funding to improve current courses and programs in a way that is most cost effective, he said.

“This is not just about economic gains, but institutional improvements — providing the best educational experience that we can,” Wallace said.

Arne Hallam, professor and chairman of the department of economics, said because Iowa State continually receives fewer state resources, this initiative helps find a way to provide students with a quality education with less faculty time and input. He said he hopes to see the college use funds more efficiently to yield a greater return.

“What I would see is more focus, more emphasis on quality in a smaller number of areas, but a meaningful liberal arts education for all students,” Hallam said. “[We want to] devote those resources to the areas that bring the highest return in terms of educational outcomes per dollar invested.”