Regents expect to save $30 to $80 million a year in efficiencies

By Vanessa Miller and Jill Kasparie, The Gazette & KCRG-TV9

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - Once a list of proposed efficiencies and improvements are implemented within Iowa’s Board of Regents system and its three public universities, savings could range from $30 million to $80 million a year.

Regent Larry McKibben, who heads a task force overseeing the Board of Regents’ “transparent, inclusive, efficiency review,” announced that range of savings Monday during a public forum at the University of Northern Iowa.

The board launched a massive efficiency review last year and hired consultant Deloitte Consulting LLC at an initial $2.5 million in an effort to make its institutions more sustainable. The review is being conducted in three phases, and the first phase ended last week with the release of a vague report outlining eight broad areas that might yield potential savings.

Deloitte consultants, during Monday’s forum, revealed a few more details about how those savings might manifest, although Rick Ferraro with Deloitte said everything is subject to change as the process moves into its second phase.

“Even the ranges (of savings) we are estimating this early in the process can get adjusted as you find new information,” Ferraro said. “Sometimes the ranges are exceeded and sometimes they fall short and sometimes they get killed.”

During the review’s 10-week first phase, Deloitte visited each campus twice, conducted about 400 interview sessions and focus groups, met with nearly 700 people, and held public forums in an effort to compare current practices to industry best practices and identify areas for improvement.

They originally identified more than 150 possible opportunities — including more than 60 directly related to efficiency and 90 related to effectiveness. But the Board of Regent task force has expressed interest in moving forward with just 17 — 12 related to administrative improvements and five related to academics, Ferraro said.

Those 12 include expanding distance learning opportunities for students, consolidating evening and summer classes to save on building maintenance costs and improving information technology efficiency. The other five academic possibilities will be reviewed further in September.

“Because of the detailed assessments and evaluations conducted in phase one of this study, I’m confident we will see additional opportunities for reinvestment in our three universities that go beyond the significant savings already identified,” said Board of Regents President Bruce Rastetter in a news release.

The full list of opportunities originally considered included things such as temporarily closing residence halls to perform maintenance, using mobile technology to maximize efficiency, and “exploring options to achieve optimal organization and staffing,” according to a 97-page report made public Monday.

Although the regents don’t plan to immediately pursue anything beyond than the 17 opportunities identified as having the most potential, Ferraro said the possibilities listed in the original report could be revisited.

“The only decision that has been made is to select 17 to move forward with,” he said. “There is no decision about what to do with the remainder.”

They could never get touched or they could be revisited in the future, McKibben said.

“It’s my expectation that this isn’t a six- to 12-month thing,” he said. “This is an ongoing process.”

Deloitte has developed a schedule and plans for the review’s second phase, which begins this month and is expected to wrap up in December. The review will focus on administrative processes over the summer and academic aspects in the fall when faculty, students and staff return to campus.

The Board of Regents at its last meeting agreed to pay Deloitte up to $1 million more to continue its second-phase work longer than expected.

l Comments: (319) 339-3106; vanessa.miller@sourcemedia.net

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