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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section highlights commonly asked questions as well as providing an on-going record of rpk Group’s responses to questions submitted by members of the Valpo community. It will be updated weekly to reflect any new comments or questions. You can ask a question or provide feedback by clicking here.

Driven by our strategic plan, Uplift Valpo: Our Beacon for the Journey Forward, this project is an opportunity to look inward and understand how Valpo can be best positioned for success in the future. We must move away from an emphasis on cutting (budgets, people, programs) and shift to an investment lens. That lens has to consider the sustainable financial structure, but also includes assessments of quality, student demand, and equitable outcomes. 

The University must look carefully at how it uses existing resources. The academic and administrative review will help Valpo ensure good stewardship of our resources by constructing consistent, transparent, data evaluation to ensure decisions are aligned toward strategic goals.

We anticipate that the review will take approximately eight months, with findings completed in early 2024.

Elimination of programs or positions is not a focus of this review. Rather, the project will provide a framework and tools to allow stakeholders to understand the entire academic portfolio, including student success across programs and how programs contribute to the University’s financial health. It will also provide a path toward administrative efficiency, which will enhance resource allocation and streamline operations and processes.

As Valpo, and all of higher education, has responded to changes in the external environment, many institutions have begun the difficult and important work of reviewing their academic portfolios. The goals of this project will be to move away from an emphasis on cutting (budgets, people, programs) and shift to an investment lens. That lens has to consider the financial business model, but also includes assessments of quality, student demand, and equitable outcomes.  

The academic review will help determine where program investments can be made and reallocations can occur, and explores how to maintain high quality instruction that leads to student success. 

The Administrative Review will allow us to improve service by identifying and addressing existing service obstacles. The project will focus on services within institutional administrative functions as well as within academic administration. In tandem with the Academic Analysis, this project will provide us with a comprehensive set of findings to move the University toward a sustainable model of administrative efficiency that continually invests in our students, faculty and staff.

  • Question: Is there any way that University officials can make all of the rpk’s recommendations and data analysis publicly accessible to all faculty and staff? And what is rpk’s role related to decision-making at Valpo?
      • Answer: Yes, updates will be provided on a monthly basis and information, including the findings, will be shared with the University community as it becomes available. We are committed to being as transparent as possible throughout this process. The role of rpk GROUP in the academic analysis and administrative review is to assist in the collection and analysis of data and feedback in an effort to identify areas of improvement and ways to develop a sustainable and operational framework. During the fall semester, the cross- functional steering and data teams will work with rpk GROUP to define and prepare the analyses together. This collaborative and engaged approach ensures the metrics can be utilized by stakeholders throughout Valpo. Findings will be submitted to University leadership for consideration in early 2024. All decisions will be made by Valparaiso University leadership, and will follow Valpo’s governance policies.
  • Question: Will this process honor Valpo’s commitment to educating students to be thoughtful, well-informed citizens and humans?
      • Answer: It is in this very spirit that Valpo is undertaking these particular operational sustainability efforts in Year 2 of the Uplift Valpo strategic plan. This project will provide key information needed for the University to continue its ongoing commitment to continuous improvement, ensuring that resources and institutional capacity are available to invest in mission-critical programming and support for students.
  • Question: Will the university-wide analysis account for Valpo’s unique mission, brand, and strategic plan?
      • Answer: Yes. Valpo’s mission and values, brand, and strategic plan are all critical elements of decision-making for the university. They will serve as the important context for the analysis of the information and data being gathered from across the institution.
  • Question: How are academic programs defined in this analysis?
      • Answer: An ‘academic program’ for the purposes of this analysis is a program of study that is comprised of one or more degrees of the same level that provide a similar student experience
  • Question: How has faculty advising effort been captured in this analysis, given Valpo’s advising model includes both professional and faculty advisors?
      • Answer: In the faculty analysis, colleges that use faculty advisors have a metric included that reflects and compares the number of majors and the number of regular faculty. This ratio is intended to approximate the average advising effort for faculty in those areas.
  • Question: Does the administrative review also calculate department level metrics? Which department includes leadership positions?
      • Answer: Yes, the administrative analysis includes administrative departmental staffing and expense analyses that mirror those prepared for the academic departments. Valpo’s leadership positions are reflected in their functional units, e.g. academic leaders are included in academics, student life leaders are in student life, etc.
  • Question: How do Valpo’s data compare to similar institutions?
      • Answer: Every institution sets priorities that align with its mission and values which makes comparisons between institutions at this level less helpful than understanding Valpo’s own trends and priorities.
  • Question: How are CORE and general education overall reflected in these analyses, given that these aren’t departments and don’t offer majors?
      • Answer: These academic offerings are reflected in the course analysis, reflecting student demand for the courses in student credit hours, and reflecting student completion in DFWU%. The faculty staffing and instructional activity in each area is also measured and reflected in the faculty analysis.
  • Question: What are the next steps with this information?
      • Answer: The data and analyses are under review by the community through mid-January 2024, when office hours will be held with rpk GROUP and project leads Mark Volpatti and Eric Johnson to answer questions and engage with faculty and staff. rpk will also meet with other stakeholder groups upon request, i.e. SEAC, faculty senate, and deans and department chairs.Valpo’s board of directors will receive the same information and presentation from the December 4 town hall in mid-January. They will further engage with the data at their retreat at the end of January, but no decisions will be made at that time.

        Any decisions will be made according to Valpo’s shared governance processes and timelines.

  • Question: Should Valpo consider a longer time period or benchmark data to better understand Valpo’s trends and comparison to other institutions?
      • Answer: Benchmarking can be one helpful tool to understand what other institutions are experiencing and how they are responding, but public data available for comparison lag significantly. FY21 is currently the latest year available for financial data, which is now 2.5 years old and doesn’t show any post-covid activity. FY22 should be available soon and could be more helpful.Analyzing additional years can be interesting and informative in terms of how the current state developed, but in rpk’s experience is not typically helpful in decision-making. The changes that will be needed to address the current structural deficit must be developed based on the current environment in which the institution is operating.
  • Question: Which data in the administrative analysis or financial analysis can help explain why indirect spending increased between 2021 and 2023?
      • Answer: The financial analysis (See Valpo Financial Analysis from rpk GROUP) includes fiscal years 2021-2023 and shows on slide 16 that academic spending has decreased a bit during this time period and indirect spending (specifically in non-compensation) has increased during this time period. rpk has observed across the sector that operations spending declined significantly in 2021 due to campus operations being extremely restricted during the pandemic. As part of the administrative review, rpk included 2020 in the trend to see how post-pandemic operations spending compared to pre-pandemic spending (See Valpo Dec 4 Town Hall_Final, Slides 35-36) which shows that post-pandemic administrative spending has essentially returned to 2020 levels of spending. The mix of spending has changed since 2020, with administrative compensation decreasing between 2020 and 2023, and non-compensation spending increasing during the time period. These slides also detail spending by administrative department by year along with staffing FTE trends during the same time period.