ASU Board hears results of efficiency study

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

BEEBE, AR (KAIT) - The Arkansas State University Board of Trustees heard the results of a system-wide efficiency study at their meeting on Friday.

The study, completed by Huron Consulting Study, found ways the system can increase revenue and reduce costs.

The consulting firm found 10 opportunities for the ASU system to do just that, by being more efficient.

The proposal could have a financial impact of approximately $10.6 million to $20.1 million per year, officials were told during the meeting at ASU-Beebe.

"They wanted to make sure that we are able to maintain student affordability, that we're going to be able to maintain appropriate salary levels for our faculty and staff, and to try to identify areas where perhaps we can maximize revenue generation, areas where we are not as efficient as we need to be and can be more collaborative," Arkansas State University System President Dr. Charles Welch said.

According to A-State, the areas outlined by Huron include:

• Enrollment management: increase full-time enrollment to previous levels, increase first-year retention rates and develop a discounting strategy to award aid more effectively.

• Procurement: initiate strategic system-wide sourcing and management efforts for cost savings.

• Development: improve alumni engagement efforts relative to peer institutions, particularly among younger demographics.

• Organizational redesign: realign staffing to reduce the large number of supervisors who have only one or two direct reports.

• Human resources: update benefits policies in areas such as retirement and health plans.

• Information technology: evaluate the service delivery model for IT across the system and centralize commodity services such as networking, application support and security.

• Outsourcing strategy: perform comprehensive evaluation of current outsourced operations such as dining and bookstores.

• Facilities operations: reorganization and changes in processes.

"I thought it was very interesting that they said we are a very lean organization," Dr. Welch said. "There were no recommendations for a reduction of staff members or anything of that nature."

The presentation did recommend the university focus on identifying students at risk of dropping out and working with financial aid to help meet their needs.

One slide in the presentation stated, "Arkansas State distributes merit-based institutional aid utilizing a criteria matrix. This scholarship policy results in the neediest students on campus receiving the lowest amounts of aid on average."

The university also loses money in out-of-state tuition, according to the study.

ASU currently offers out-of-state tuition at almost $7,000 below average.

Those students are also often given waivers that allow them to pay in-state tuition prices, which hurts the university's net tuition revenue.

"Through either increases to out-of-state tuition or the revision of existing scholarship policies, net tuition revenue per student can be increased to reach close enrollment peer, UCA," another presentation slide stated.

"I think it's more in finding ways to work together better and finding ways to maybe be a little more agile in the way that we have some of our processes at the institution," Dr. Welch said.

Another problem the study found is the several different outsourcing contracts with vendors for services like dining, the bookstores, and printing.

Those companies all offer different returns, so the data suggests system-wide contracts might be more beneficial for the university.

As far as employee benefits, the data shows that ASU offers a 10% retirement benefit contribution, which is higher than both industry and in-state standards.

Dr. Welch said that stakeholders need to remember this presentation is only a suggestion and the opinion of the consultants, though.

"Some of these things we've already looked at and said nah, that probably doesn't work as well here, maybe they didn't understand the full context of it," Dr. Welch said. "But we take that and use that data that's been provided and then we begin to craft our own decisions."

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