Higher education

Regents move to 'next generation' of efficiency review

'We need to do more'

(File Photo) The Board of Regents State of Iowa meet in the main lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa Campus Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Iowa City.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)
(File Photo) The Board of Regents State of Iowa meet in the main lounge of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa Campus Wednesday, June 5, 2013 in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

A Board of Regents initiative launched two years to save money by finding efficiencies across its public university system is expected to save up to $12.2 million through the end of the next budget year.

But, with the universities scrimping for resources and now proposing among the largest tuition increases in recent history, Regent Larry McKibben on Thursday said efficiencies implemented to date are not enough.

“Progress has been made in the finding of efficiencies, but we need to do more,” said McKibben, who has led the regents’ “Transparent, Inclusive, Efficiency Review.”

“As we look forward, I would like us to do some long-term planning that incorporates specific needs, appropriations, tuition, and related matters,” he said. “Additionally, I would like the institutions to begin looking for new or enhanced opportunities for savings and efficiencies.”

The Board of Regents, which is considering a second consecutive year of tuition increases for resident undergraduate students after receiving fewer state dollars than requested, needs a “strategic, comprehensive, long-term approach” to put the universities on the path to maintaining accessibility and affordability.

“While we have made good progress so far, we should be diligent in our continuous quality improvement,” McKibben said.

That mission is driving the “next generation to TIER,” which McKibben announced Thursday, calling it “CQI” — for continuous quality improvement.

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“I think that’s the next step,” he said. “We will be moving TIER to CQI.”

The efficiency review to date has prompted changes in administrative areas including purchasing, information technology, finance, human resources, and facilities. On the academic side, the universities are implementing efficiencies in enrollment management, classroom utilization, and distance learning — including an online course-sharing project involving the regents’ three universities set to debut in the fall.

Near the outset of the efficiency review, Deloitte Consulting LLC — a firm the board paid $3.3 million — estimated the universities would save $16 million to $40 million in the first 18 to 24 months just through changing sourcing and procurement practices.

Instead, purchasing changes to date have saved the campuses a combined $3.7 million to $4.4 million — with the University of Iowa saving the most at between $2.5 million and $2.8 million. Annualized savings from those changes are estimated at between $3 million and $4 million, with procurement savings through the end of the 2017 budget year projected at $5.38 million and $6.31 million, according to documents presented to the Board of Regents this week.

Mark Braun, the regents’ chief operating officer, has said Deloitte’s estimates were dynamic and took a high-level view. Huron Consulting Group, which the board hired for $895,000 to implement Deloitte’s sourcing and procurement suggestions, focused on specific commodity areas — including office supplies, computers, and food service contracts — and came back with a more modest first-year savings projection of between $5 million and $10.1 million.

Huron estimated annualized savings at between $3.9 million and $7.8 million — with cumulative savings after three years at between $16.8 million and $36.2 million, according to regent documents.

As for efficiencies in other areas, the universities by the end of the 2017 budget year are expected to save $1.7 million in information technology, $3.5 million in human resources, and a combined $637,000 in finance and facilities.

“We are in line, we are making progress,” Braun told The Gazette. “We are a little behind in some places. We are a little ahead in some places.”

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