Grant beneficiaries fight to survive after budget cuts

Some programs have found ways to survive the expiration of the Vision in Action grant while others struggle to find other means of support.

Like the RealWorld ad agency, the Science and Engineering Research Center’s VIA grant will also expire, and without additional funding the program will most likely be shut down, said Dick Rinewalt, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

The center does research for all departments, and it is currently working with the psychology department on a study about physical contact between human beings, he said.

Rinewalt said the SERC requested more funding from the university in October.

“The letter outlines the benefits of the center and the national recognition it has brought to TCU, but we still haven’t received any response,” Rinewalt said.

The SERC is one of several programs that are facing funding issues. Out of the 52 programs that have received VIA funding, 16 will be funded through the 2010 fiscal year, said Ann Sewell, associate provost for academic planning and budgeting.

The VIA grant was set up in 2005 and provides funding for projects set up by students, faculty, staff, trustees and alumni that are intended to enrich student life on campus, said Leo Munson, associate vice chancellor of academic support.

The Board of Trustees allocates money for the VIA grants from the university’s general budget, Sewell said.

Sewell said the grant usually has $3 million to disperse among various programs, but because of budget cuts, only $2 million will be available for programs for the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

Catherine Wehlburg, executive director of the Office for Assessment Quality Enhancement Council, reviews each grant and makes recommendations to the provost about which ones should receive funding.

“There is only so much money to go around, and in this economy it would be impossible to support everyone,” Wehlburg said. “We look for programs that are going to be beneficial to a wide number of students.”

She also said VIA grants were not set up to last indefinitely, and they will expire in 2010.

“The VIA was not designed to extend for more than five years as a granting project, however the projects themselves are fully capable of remaining on campus if they acquire additional outside funding,” Wehlburg said.

After applying for a VIA grant, the Quality Enhancement Council will determine whether a program falls under the transformational category, Sewell said.

Transformational projects are those that are expected to or prove to transform the nature of the university and raise its academic profile, giving it a greater international presence, according to the Strategic Initiative Fund Grant Proposal Guidelines.

One program that proved itself to be transformation is the Supply Chain Technology Laboratory.

The laboratory received a transformational grant in 2006, said director Charles Lamb, who is also a marketing professor and department chair of Information Systems and Supply Chain Management.

Lamb said it was set up in the Neeley School of Business to provide students with hands-on training related to supply chain technology.

“Now that our aid from the grant is up, the Neeley School will fund the program,” Lamb said. “This was our plan going into it, and since the laboratory has been so successful in its effectiveness the business school will allocate the funds needed to keep the laboratory running.”

Dan Williams, English departmental chair, professor and director of the Writing Associates Program, said that the program received a transformational grant in 2006 and that it has received additional funding until 2010. The program selects and trains highly qualified students to work as peer tutors in specific courses, Williams said.

“The program will disappear without continued university funding,” Williams said. “It would be a real disappointment to see certain programs go if they had proven to enrich student life for students as well as faculty year after year.”