Archive for Monday, August 15, 2011

KU’s ongoing efficiency study identifies 12 areas in which university could save money

August 15, 2011, 2:54 p.m. Updated August 16, 2011, 1:30 p.m.


An ongoing efficiency study at Kansas University has identified 12 areas of potential improvement.

Since April, KU has been working with Huron Consulting to come up with ways to make the university’s administrative functions more efficient and effective.

“Change is always difficult, but if we realize the gains that are possible, we will strengthen this university for the future and allow us to excel in our mission of educating leaders, building healthy communities and making discoveries that change the world,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little in a message to faculty and staff.

The 12 areas of opportunity, listed with a corresponding minimum amount of potential cost savings, revenue reallocations or new revenue, are:

• Administrative support at KU Medical Center, $280,000.

• Budgeting process at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, $4.7 million.

• Campus construction on all campuses, $2.9 million.

• Creation of service centers at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, $1.3 million.

• Enrollment management at the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, $8.6 million.

• Facilities maintenance and upkeep at all campuses, $5.5 million.

• Human resources on all campuses, $2.25 million.

• Information technology on all campuses, $5.7 million.

• Libraries on all campuses, $2.1 million.

• Procurement on all campuses, $1.6 million.

• Research administration on the Lawrence and Edwards campuses, $400,000.

• Research administration at KU Medical Center, $290,000.

Through October, Huron Consulting staff members will gather more information and present business cases and implementation plans to KU administrators, who will review them before making final decisions about any new measures.

Though a report from Huron Consulting did identify some areas that were at higher staffing levels than peer institutions — the KU Libraries system, for example — KU Provost Jeff Vitter said that administrators intended to achieve any staffing reductions through attrition when possible.

Vitter confirmed that one option still on the table would consolidate maintenance operations across the campuses, including those in Facilities Operations, Student Housing and Recreation Services.

While most of the identified opportunities are focused on cost savings, some areas would seek to create new sources of revenue.

Vitter said that was the case with enrollment, as KU has faced enrollment declines in recent years.

“Basically, it does reflect that the university currently has an unused capacity,” he said.

KU is already stepping up its recruitment efforts. It has already unveiled a new method of allocating scholarship funds, by frontloading more dollars to be available to freshmen.

“I think we’ll get more students, as well as more prepared students,” Vitter said.

KU’s fall enrollment figures are likely to be down overall, but its freshmen numbers are up, he said, to around 4,000, as of this week.

A Huron Consulting report said that the university’s freshmen enrollment had dropped to 3,700 from a high of 4,500 in 2008.

Vitter said he hoped KU’s new scholarship efforts, along with other initiatives, would help reverse that trend.

“That makes a real difference to the institution,” he said.

The “service centers” mentioned as an area of improvement would set up centralized locations of well-trained people in a certain task, instead of having several people performing that task in various departments across the university, Vitter said.

Potential examples could be found in accounting and business functions, information technology and human resources, he said.

Additional details on the plan are available online at

“This whole program is about being good stewards of our resources so that we can really make improvements,” Vitter said. “Like any really great institution, it’s about transforming ourselves to get better.”


KEITHMILES05 6 years, 3 months ago

This ought to be interesting to hear the outcry from those involved.

tolawdjk 6 years, 3 months ago

Curious. $5.5 million on facilities maintenance?

I thought KU was falling apart just a few short years ago with a backlog of projects?

If it is one pot of money, shouldn't it go to where it is needed?

It maybe that the backlog was cleared and everything is done, but pre-recession, I distincly remember the doom and gloom that if nothing was going to happen soon, the whole thing was going to slide into the river.

Jack Martin 6 years, 3 months ago

@tolawdjk - There is still a maintenance backlog, as was detailed in this story from the KU edition over the weekend:

The figure in the list above is the minimum estimated savings that could be realized by making our operations in that area more efficient, with the goal of then reinvesting those savings into advancing KU's mission.

Pamela Shanks 6 years, 3 months ago

"Reinvesting those savings into advancing KU's mission..." Does that mean that $ saved would go into clearing the backlog or would be used for some other general purpose? It seems only logical that the money saved would be used to help clear the backlog. If money saved from that department does not go to that purpose I cannot imagine that you can convince anyone in the future of a real need for more $. Can you explain your comment more clearly?

Jack Martin 6 years, 3 months ago

The goal of this is to free up resources currently used for administrative operations and reinvest those in ways that support the teaching and research mission. It may very well be that some of the savings go to deferred maintenance, since there are projects that would enhance the learning and research environment. Savings could also go to new programs that help students graduate on time, or to hiring new faculty in areas identified as priorities for the university.

Until the savings are realized it is hard to say with certainty where a particular dollar would go, but the goal is to devote them to projects and initiatives that help KU teach students and make discoveries.

imastinker 6 years, 3 months ago

So none of these savings will be used towards building maintenance?

Kris Adair 6 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps they will use these savings to cut tuition for cash strapped students?

ljwhirled 6 years, 3 months ago

Right, I'll believe that when my poo turns purple and smells like rainbow sherbet.

KU_cynic 6 years, 3 months ago

$8.6 million for "enrollment management"? That sounds very funny.

Jack Martin 6 years, 3 months ago

That is projected revenue that would result from higher enrollment.

KU_cynic 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't see how squeezing more butts in the seats and increasing student-teacher ratios can be seen as an efficiency gain -- especially if KU is going to follow through on its commitment to increase admission standards so as to improve retention figures.

I didn't think that was within the purview of the Huron project.

Pamela Shanks 6 years, 3 months ago

That might be a great match to the 8.6 million from enrollment management? If the buildings are not maintained, there will be fewer students. That was one thing that stood out to me as I toured universities with my own children. Crumbling cement, rusting metal, carpet with holes and musty or hot rooms did not leave me with the impression that my children could get a quality education. Not the deciding factor by any means, but first impressions help a school to make first round of cuts with families shopping for education value. Just like AFH helps to sell KU to recruits, building and ground maintenance helps to sell KU.

avoice 6 years, 3 months ago

You can't judge a book by its cover. If I'm shopping for quality education, I want to see a lot more than the quality of their buildings and grounds. It's all too easy in our slick marketing society to put a fresh coat of paint on a subpar educational environment and dupe a lot of students and their parents into thinking that equates with a good education or a valuable education. Beautiful new buildings, whatever. Show me the graduates -- and their career success.

Jack Martin 6 years, 3 months ago

KU has reduced emissions, not to mention saved millions of dollars, by reducing energy usage.

Additionally, creating a sustainable campus is the priority of the Sustainability Plan that was commissioned by Chancellor Gray-Little last year and finalized last month. It is currently being reviewed with an eye toward implementation.

Finally, fostering interdisciplinary work on sustainability - including through classes and research - is the first of four strategic initiatives identified in the strategic plan as a priority for the university.

guppypunkhead 6 years, 3 months ago

The thing that bugs me about this report is that KU Libraries got put in with all of these "administrative" areas/functions. If teaching and research are the mission of KU, why would you cut 2.1m from the libraries? Not a lot of research can be done without the things the libraries provide.

true_patriot 6 years, 3 months ago

I don't think efficiency should ever be the primary driving factor in such decisions, only one of several variables. Higher education in Kansas has already been cut to the bone over and over.

Rather than reducing the potential for faculty, staff and students to teach, research, support, maintain, explore and learn in order to meet a never-ending series of attacks on education, we should be coming to grips with the fact that higher education is a critical factor in the long term success and stability of both Kansas and the United States and our relationships with partners around the globe and make funding it one of the top priorities that it actually is.

If efficiency is the goal, lets just give everyone on all state campuses and research laboratories $200 Best Buy laptops, fire all the office staff except 1 per office, fire half the faculty and only conduct classes one hour per day. It would be far more efficient than all the proposed cuts and consolidations and save the Kansas taxpayers a huge bundle.

TikiLee 6 years, 3 months ago

Remember- KU Athletics =/ (doesn't equal) KU. Any salaries paid by KU Athletics wouldn't go back to KU anyway. Right?

firebird27 6 years, 3 months ago

Do not be fooled about the money savings and who is doing it. Provost Vitter is a hatchet man. To many KU faculty who are understanding what he is doing (the Chancellor is only a figurehead on this issue), he is reducing costs everywhere. Admittedly, cost savings can be welcomed, such as those listed above. But what he is doing is beyond cutting costs on these items. At Texas A&M, he only saw faculty members as money - a professor loses money for the university or gains it. Of all the administrators to ever be at KU, I believe he will become the most hated. He seems to have no interest in what makes a good student. A student is an economic unit of providing funds. A faculty member is only valued for producing student credit hours (money) or gaining grants (money). For example, given this economic attitude, the only reason a School of Music can survive is the amount of donations that are given to the School. Some music courses have very small enrollments.

But he has been given the green light to use the hatchet. After he is done, I suspect he will move on to another university to be its president. But KU faculty and other administrators will have to put some of the broken pieces he will have created with his singular view of the university and his form of friendly economic fascism. This is a person that everyone needs to become aware of what he is doing. No doubt, Vitter will do some good, but many people at KU, including those who want to cut costs and are conservatives, are fearful of the harm he will do to KU.

Jack Martin 6 years, 3 months ago

This comment seems to be referring to the Texas A&M System's recent move to assess faculty performance on a financial basis.

Provost Vitter strongly disagrees with what the A&M System is doing, and in fact said so in a message to the KU campus in September 2010:

"As I said at the beginning of this issue of Provost eNews, it takes time and transparency to build trust in an organization. I have noted a recent Chronicle of Higher Education story about the Texas A&M University System’s proposal to determine the net dollar worth of faculty. Since I came to KU from Texas A&M, I can only imagine that some KU faculty are wondering if such a program is my intent as well! The answer is no. I strongly disagree with the Texas A&M approach. I know that someday the KU community will have a better sense of my vision and values. Until then, be assured that I am firmly committed, like you, to recognizing and promoting excellence at KU in the context of its mission as a broad comprehensive research university. "

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