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Iowa Universities Take Part in Efficiency Review
By Vanessa Miller, Reporter
IOWA CITY, Iowa - An effort to make Iowa's public universities "sustainable for the long term" is underway, with a consulting firm planning campus visits in the coming weeks and administrators calling for public input.
Presidents of the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and University of Northern Iowa have launched the efficiency review effort on their campuses with letters inviting stakeholders and community members to get involved.
"The savings you help us identify will be reinvested into programs that strengthen teaching and research and keep our high-quality public education affordable to Iowa students and their families," UI President Sally Mason wrote in her letter. "We want to engage and involved as many people as possible in this review."
The initiative – called "Rising to the next tier – a transparent, inclusive, efficiency review" – charges a regent-formed task force to work with university administrators and a consultant to find efficiencies that will maximize resources and create savings.
Those savings, according to the Board of Regents, will be reinvested into programs that strengthen the universities' teaching, research, and service missions, improve administrative processes and keep public education affordable.
"Nothing is off the table, and all ideas and questions are welcome," according to Mason's letter.
The first phase of the comprehensive review will include an examination of all university business functions, programs and facilities. Deloitte LLP, a consulting firm recently hired by the Board of Regents at an initial cost of $2.5 million, will be on the UI campus this week.
Deloitte representatives will participate in interviews with key stakeholders and in a UI-centered public forum at 10 a.m. Friday. Mason, regents President Bruce Rastetter, and regent Larry McKibben also will take part in that town hall meeting.
"We respect the diverse views of the students, faculty and staff on our campus and encourage you to share your idea with us," Mason wrote in her letter.
Deloitte will visit ISU next week – with a public forum planned for Tuesday – and UNI the following week for a forum on April 7. All three schools also are accepting public suggestions online via websites created for the efficiency initiative.
Rastetter and McKibben co-wrote a letter – that can be found on those sites – explaining the "most ambitious cost-saving review in a quarter century," the need for it and the expectations.
In the months ahead, according to the letter, each department and each university will undergo audits and interviews to address what is being done well and what can be improved.
"The significance of this transformative review cannot be overstated," according to the letter. "Here in Iowa and throughout the United States, higher education is facing severe economic constraints that require our universities to transform their organizations."
The status quo, according to the letter, "is unsustainable and therefore unacceptable." The regents said the state universities no longer can avoid change.
"We cannot be timid about making difficult decisions over challenging circumstances," according to the letter. "This efficiency review will usher in a new era of accountability and educational excellence."
Rastetter has said the regents haven't had much opposition to the review. But, during the board's last meeting in Iowa City, protestors interrupted by repeatedly shouting, "Ditch Deloitte, stop the audit."
Deloitte, which has three offices in Iowa, was among 10 companies to submit proposals for the job. The consulting firm, in its previous work, has produced a return on investment of six to 10 times what they charge for their services.
That could mean $25 million in new efficiencies for Iowa's universities, although Rastetter said the board isn't predicting how much money it will save.
University of Iowa -- 10 a.m. Friday in 100 Phillips H all
Iowa State University -- 10 a.m. April 1 in Howe Hall Auditorium
University of Northern Iowa -- 1:30 p.m. April 7 in Maucker Union Ballroom
For more information
University of Iowa – http://efficiency.uiowa.edu/
Iowa State University – http://web.iastate.edu/efficiency/
University of Northern Iowa – http://www.uni.edu/web/efficiency