RD506 - A Plan for Implementing a Statewide Survey of Institutional Expenditures by Program and Academic Discipline – October 31, 2020

Executive Summary:

The 2020 General Assembly directed the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) to develop a plan for implementing a statewide survey of institutional expenditures by program and academic discipline at Virginia’s public higher education institutions, and submit a report and recommendations to the Governor and the Chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees by November 1, 2020.

SCHEV staff reviewed comparable national and other state studies, surveyed Virginia public institutions that participated in a national study of instructional costs for their opinions, and assessed the availability of Virginia’s data and SCHEV’s capacity to conduct the study.

Based on these reviews SCHEV developed three options for implementing a statewide survey. They include:

• Option 1: Have all public four-year institutions participate periodically in the National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity. This national study (commonly referred to as the Delaware Cost study (DCS)) has operated for 25 years. Many Virginia public institutions have participated at various times and report that the data allow for some benchmarking with peer institutions, helps with budget and faculty hiring decisions, and provides self-reported data on faculty productivity and costs. However, fewer than 200 institutions participate each year nationally. Community colleges are not included, and the study only provides data for instructional costs.

• Option 2: Have SCHEV administer, collect and analyze data from institutions. This approach would use a similar methodology as DCS, but SCHEV staff would be responsible for collecting and maintaining the data, which would provide greater flexibility in reporting and allow for survey adjustments to meet Virginia specific interests if needed, but would not be able to compare program costs to peer institutions nationally.

• Option 3: Develop a database at SCHEV to collect unit-level data to analyze and compile program costs. This option provides the greatest flexibility, but would require significant costs at the state level, and impose additional costs on institutions if data systems need modifications to meet the new reporting requirements.

This report discusses the study mandate, terminology used and summarizes reviews of similar studies. It concludes by offering three options that the Commonwealth could pursue.