The Trouble with FTEs

FTE stands for Full-Time Equivalent, which in academia represents an imaginary student enrolled in 15 credits.  The problem with claiming that funding should be distributed according to FTE and not based on what students actually pay in tuition and fees is that not all FTEs are created equal.  Imagine a situation where a community college has both a main campus and a branch campus.  For the sake of this exercise, assume that both campuses have 4 FTEs, meaning that students are enrolled in a total of 60 credits at each institution.

According the funding equation set forth by CCS Administrative Procedure 5.05.01-H and the Student Services and Activities Committee, students pay $11.28 per credit for the first 10 credits they enroll in, then $6.56 per credit for the next 8 credits, and pay nothing for any credits taken beyond that.  The breakdown for our imaginary 4 FTEs is below:

Under this example, the 4 students pay in a total of $582.40 in S&A Fees.  Those fees are distributed the according to the following schedule:

4.8% to the Building Fund
7% to Financial Aid
33% to Athletics
55.2% to Student Clubs, Activities, Travel Budgets, Funding for Tutors, etc.

This means that each campus should expect to receive $321.48 in return, because that is 55.2% of the total S&A Fees projected to be paid by their students.  However, as I mentioned at the outset, not all FTE’s are created equal.  Let’s look at how the actual amount of S&A Fees vary by school in our example.

The main campus tends to have traditional students who are enrolled full time.  Here, they have 3 students, each taking 20 credits.  The break-down of S&A Fee payments is below:

While they have 4 FTEs, a total of 60 credits, they only have 3 students and those students only paid a combined total of $495.84 in S&A Fees.  Given that 55.2% of those funds should be returned to the students in the form of student funded programs, this campus should receive $273.70, not the $321.48 they projected.

For comparison, the branch campus serves more non-traditional students who only take a couple classes at a time.  Here, they have 6 students, each enrolled in 10 credits.  The break-down of S&A Fee payments is below:

While the branch campus has the same 4 FTEs, a total of 60 credits, they are serving 6 students who paid in a combined total of $676.80 in S&A Fees.  Because the students paid in more per credit on average, not to mention more overall, the branch campus should receive $373.59 in return, not the $321.48 determined by the mythical 4-student FTE projection.

Now, let’s look at how the two campuses compare in per student funding levels.  The total amount of S&A Fees paid by the students is $1,172.64 ($495.84 from the Main Campus + $676.80 from the branch campus) and 55.2% of that is $647.30.  The main campus simply subtracts the amount of the imaginary 4-student FTE projections, ignoring the amount of S&A Fees actually paid by the students at the branch campus as well as neglecting to look at the much smaller amount of S&A Fees paid by their own students.

As a result of funding per FTE, the branch campus is chronically underfunded, while the main campus has a budget that is consistently bloated with undeserved funds.  Thus, the main campus is effectively using student fees from the branch campus to subsidize their own budget. This example illustrates how actual amounts of fees paid by the students can vary widely from projections and why you should be very leery of anyone who refuses to look at real world data when making budgeting decisions.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, students at the Pullman Campus paid in $108,629.20 in S&A Fees.  The portion of this amount that should be returned to the students in the form of student funded programs (paying for tutors, paying work-study students, funding student clubs, etc.) based off the 55.2% number determined by the funding equation set forth by CCS Administrative Procedure 5.05.01-H and the Student Services and Activities Committee is $59,963.32, yet Heather McKenzie, Director of Student Funded programs at the Spokane campus insist the students are only owed $22,568 and has told both students and faculty they should be grateful for anything they receive above that amount.  And here is where it gets really interesting.

Last year, the Pullman campus had 733.53 FTEs.  Per the above FTE funding equation, that should represent $106,801.97, and 55.2% of that is $58,954.69.  So, even when using FTEs the Pullman Campus is still owed far more than the $22,568 Heather McKenzie claims is all that is due to the Pullman Campus.

While it is common in corporate America for a person to attempt to make themselves and their programs better off at the expense of others, when that person is a public employee they must be held accountable.

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