The University of Massachusetts has identified general education requirements as being an important component of undergraduate student education. These requirements prepare them for their undergraduate education experience but perhaps more importantly for their lives beyond their university experience. UMass currently provides additional funding for teaching assistants for certain schools and colleges to aid in delivery of general education classes. Unfortunately, the funding model has not been reexamined in light of changes to general education requirements that were implemented starting with the incoming freshman class in the fall of 2010. An organizational problem exists because of the failure to examine the funding model to determine if changes are needed to support the new requirements structure.
This analysis will look at factors that should be used to determine an appropriate funding model that UMass can adopt. Data was gathered via a survey sent to ten peer institutions and examination of the institution websites to gather additional information on general education requirements. UMass data was obtained and analyzed to determine who is taking general classes and also who is offering said classes. Additional analysis was done on the use of teaching assistants and their roles as it pertains to general education classes.
An analysis of four possible alternatives is presented for consideration. In addition criteria are identified for analyzing the alternatives. The four criteria include meeting the needs of undergraduate students, ease of administration, meeting the needs of graduate students for both teaching experience and financial assistance and the ability to support special projects and initiatives.
• Alternative 1: status quo, central funding of a fixed number of teaching assistants in designated schools and colleges, is easily administered but does not offer any meaningful support for the identified objectives.
• Alternative 2: funding per student goes to the school or college that sponsors a student’s major.
• Alternative 3: funding per seat provides that schools and colleges receive funding based on the number of students taught in classes offered through each academic organization.
• Alternative 4: distributed model where a percentage of funding, after certain administrative costs are covered, goes to schools and colleges based on the number of students in sponsored majors and the remaining funding goes to the academic organization offering classes.
After considering the alternatives in light of the four criteria, alternative four was chosen as most suitable to suit the evolving needs of UMass. This alternative provides funding to support the schools and colleges that sponsor majors as well as providing incentives to offer a sufficient quantity of classes to meet undergraduate student need for timely graduation. It is further expected that classes will meet student interests as departments will want to offer classes that attract students. The formulaic nature of the alternative, along with its ability to meet the unique needs of unaffiliated and honors students allows for ease of administration, reducing needed resources. While not guaranteed it is hoped that the funding for general education classes across all academic units will lead to increased opportunities for graduate students as well. Finally, by freeing up funding currently used for funding only select teaching assistant position, the central administration will have funds available for use in special projects and initiatives, specifically those being advocated by current best practices models.