Miami works to implement cost-saving goals
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012 01:04
Nearly a year and a half after creating a Strategic Priorities Task Force to recommend cost-saving measures, Miami University is still working to complete those goals.
Some of these recommendations include a goal to raise $50 million in scholarship funds, Support Services Implementation Program – Information Technology Services (SSIP-IT) and the addition of a January academic term.
According to David Creamer, vice president of finance and business services, the goal of the Strategic Priorities Task Force is for Miami to continue to deliver the same level of education while reducing the cost it takes for the university to run. This goal was the result of a lack of funding from the state of Ohio and the need to slow the growth in the cost of tuition.
“We have to find a way to either generate new revenues or to control our cost going forward by providing our services more efficiently, so that we can continue to provide the kind of educational experience that students and families expect but in a way that is more affordable,” Creamer said.
The ability to retain the level of education quality is a primary concern of students and faculty, according to junior Josh Kremer.
“I’m of the opinion that college should be for education and not for economics,” Kremer said.
According to Creamer, most of the Strategic Priorities Task Force recommendations have been successful thus far.
The Strategic Priorities Task Force has been reaching or exceeding most of its cost containment goals, Creamer said.
The SSIP-IT initiative has not reached its goal. It was originally projected to save the university $3.7 million but is now only projected to save $1.9-1.5 million.
Creamer said the lack of savings is being offset by the fact the university will exceed its goals for this year for energy cost reduction and health insurance cost containment.
One of the cost cutting measures is implementing a new budget model, which if accepted this semester, will be worked on this summer.
Sophomore Liz Schwartz said if cuts are made by the university it should make cuts to non-academic areas first.
“Students are here first and foremost to learn so cutting it from other areas would make the most sense,” Schwartz said.
The goal behind the new budget model is to allow each academic division to have greater control over financial decisions that impact the delivery of the educational mission and also better inform them about how these financial choices affect the university as a whole, Creamer said.
Ultimately, this new model will lead to great autonomy for the academic divisions, according to Creamer.
“A lot of [the budget model] is designed to give each of the academic divisions a greater autonomy and hopefully greater flexibility to look at how new revenue opportunities can be generated at the university,” Creamer said. “They will be linked to their success in generating new revenues for their divisions, the more success they have in doing that the more autonomy they have in regard to how to utilize those resources.”
Another goal of the Strategic Priorities Task Force is to eliminate redundant positions and activities within the university, according to Creamer. This elimination involves determining if there is a better way for Miami to deliver a particular service while using fewer resources and staff.
“We continue to try to find ways to operate with fewer staff while maintaining the service levels at the historic levels that we have provided,” Creamer said.
Creamer said an example of this is registration.
“It used to be that the services students received in registration and elsewhere were very paper intensive we have more self-help, self-service kinds of activities today,” Creamer said. “Self-help kinds of services that are more electronic based can replace where we’ve historically had people involved in delivering those activities.”
Kremer said while self-help services are important for everyday activities they can be a detriment for academic issues.
“If I had a serious academic issue I would not want to go through an automated thing,” Kremer said. “I would prefer to have someone to speak to.”
English Professor Katharine Gillespie said one of the outcomes of the Strategic Priorities Task Force should be to eliminate excess administration in departments.
According to Gillespie, universities have moved toward adding more administration positions in academic departments, which result in the creation of smaller programs, which then require the creation of more administration positions to manage them.
“One of the things [lots of administrators within departments] do is proliferate programs and programs require directors, directors require course reductions, so you have fewer and fewer faculty in the classroom,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie said there needs to be more faculty who are teaching and researching as opposed to running programs.
“I think we need to be teaching students not administrating students and I think a lot of times what is a program could be a concentration could be a specialization but doesn’t need to have a bureaucratic structure that requires staffing and funding, etc,” Gillespie said. “My commitment is to as many faculty teaching and researching as possible.”