Iowa Regents' longer efficiency report lists 175 'improvement opportunities'

UI hosts public forum Wednesday

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-KCRG)
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-KCRG)

When University of Iowa community members convene Wednesday for a public forum to discuss initial findings from a Board of Regents efficiency review, they will have had the chance to view a full list of 175 “improvement opportunities” — even though just 17 are being pursued right now.

Before Monday's public forum at the University of Northern Iowa — the first of three planned on Iowa's public university campuses — officials released a “summary” report identifying only broad areas of cost-saving opportunities. It included suggestions like improving building use, optimizing how information technology services are provided, and improving purchasing practices.

Some expressed disappointment with the nondescript nature of that report, and Deloitte Consulting — being paid millions to help conduct the review — responded Monday by airing more details about the opportunities it plans to pursue and releasing its full 97-page report.

That longer report lists possible opportunities to become more efficient, generate revenue and improve effectiveness and quality in 11 areas across the regent system and on individual campuses. Only those opportunities pulled out and identified as most promising will be immediately pursued, according to Deloitte and regent officials.

But, during Monday's public forum at UNI, officials said items on the longer list could be pursued at a later date. UNI President William Ruud said administrators, faculty, and staff could take it upon themselves to implement suggestions from the longer list — even if the consultant isn't planning to pursue them in the review's second phase.

“A lot of people will read these findings and say, 'Wow, that is something I've wanted to do differently for a while,” Ruud said.

The long list of opportunities includes things like reviewing the financial sustainability of non-academic programs. In Deloitte's interviews with faculty and staff, the consultant found that some of those programs — like summer camps and leadership development programs — “may not be financially sustainable and in line with wider university missions.”

Deloitte suggested evaluating the costs and benefits of such programs “for future support.”

It also found that the Board of Regents requires UI departments and central marketing resources to use the university's on-site printing service, which charges 15 to 20 percent more than local competitors, according to the report. The UI prints more than 1 million brochures, magazines and newsletters annually.

“External vendors typically deliver higher quality and more timely services,” the consultant wrote. “Consider options to allow departments and central marketing to bid for printing services through procurement to reduce printing costs and increase timeliness.”

Among the suggestions was one to standardize and enforce the use of university brands across all three campuses. Deloitte found marketing materials created at all three universities that didn't follow existing brand guidelines — like business cards and websites that did not use consistent colors and formatting.

“Without clear guidelines and enforcement of those guidelines, the universities could continue to experience redundant and unclear messaging,” according to the report.

The list of suggestions includes a few things the Board of Regents Office could do better.

“While the Board establishes policies, it does not play an active role in providing policy interpretations, enforcing policies, and evaluating progress and compliance,” according to the report.

Deloitte found that, “While the board collects and disseminates data and reports, it does not define and use performance metrics to identify, pursue and monitor improvement.”

The consultant also suggested the universities reduce reliance on manual check processing in their accounts payable operations. Right now, 45 percent of UI payments are paid by check, 65 percent of UNI payments are made by check, and nearly all ISU payments are via check, according to the report.

And it encouraged the universities to use social platforms — like Skype — for initial rounds of candidate interviews.

“Feedback from interviews at all three campuses indicates the current search process can be costly and timely when needing to bring candidates to campus,” according to the report.

The board launched its massive “transparent, inclusive, efficiency review” last year and hired Deloitte at an initial cost of $2.5 to conduct the study. The first of the study's three phases ended last week, and the board agreed to pay Deloitte up to $1 million more so it can work longer than expected on phase two.

Deloitte officials on Monday said they expect the study to produce savings in the $30 million to $80 million range annually — once efficiencies and improvements are implemented.

Of the 17 opportunities it plans to pursue in phase two of the review, 12 are administrative in nature and five are academic. Consultant representatives on Monday provided more details about some of those opportunities — including one that would “strengthen academic programs to achieve maximum competitiveness” and another that would standardize the Regent Admission Index.

Right now, the admission index relies on class rank, which high schools are using less frequently. To make up for that missing metric, each university has created its own proxy calculation, according to the report.

Deloitte suggests using “business intelligence tools” to identify parameters that lead to student success and adjusting the index score required for automatic admission.

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