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 http://chancellor.ku.edu/changingforexcellence/
“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.”