The development of a computerized costing and budgeting simulation model for higher education

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University


The purpose of the study was to develop and document a computerized costing and budgeting simulation model, the Costing and Budgeting System for Higher Education (CBS), which models the instructional setting in an institution of higher education. CBS is a management tool designed to assist administrators and planning committees in making rational decisions regarding the allocation and utilization of instructional resources. The model is limited to the calculation of direct costs of instruction. However, it does have a feature for calculating up to ninety-nine non-instructional budgets. The model may be driven with historical or projected data.

The underlying objective in the creation of CBS was to design a model unmatched in flexibility and simplicity from the point of view of the user without compromising the ability of the model to represent the instructional setting. The most important achievements regarding flexibility were in relation to model inputs and outputs, while the major achievement regarding simplicity was achieving this type of flexibility without unduly complicating the procedures and directions for using the model.

With regard to input flexibility, CBS allows for a wide range of input requirements. The user has a choice of running the model in three different and distinct operating modes. The three modes, historical, abridged projection and unabridged projection correspond· respectively to three levels of sophistication at which data may be supplied to the model.

CBS is particularly characterized by its high degree of reporting flexibility in terms of the extent and variety of reports which may be requested. The user may select any combination of ten general academic reports and a summary budget report. All the general academic reports are printed in a matrix format which simplifies interpretation and greatly enhances the user's ability to compare data. The matrix format also allows large amounts of information to be reported in a relatively small amount of space. Further, the matrix reports may be called upon to display data representing only specified subsets of discipline program relationships through the model's clustering and configuration techniques.

Finally, with regard to simplicity, CBS was designed to require a great deal of interaction between it and the user. This was accomplished by having the model lead the user through the cost study in progressive stages or phases. The most important feature in this regard is the model's ability to request for model input data. In each phase, CBS generates input sheets appropriate for the chosen operating mode requesting the specific data needed to complete that phase.

The study includes user and technical documentation. The model is fully illustrated by means of hypothetical institutional data which includes computer generated data input sheets and an extensive array of report examples in the appendixes. Also included are recommendations for implementation, use, and further development of the model. Specific examples are included which demonstrate the utility of the model for unit cost analyses and for complex planning analysis.