Campus looking for efficient ways to cut costs

In response to the economic downturn of 2008, the university will try to decrease operating costs by 8 percent across the board, Chancellor Victor Boschini said.

Achieving this goal will affect the faculty and academic areas the most, leaving areas such as fundraising and admissions mostly unaffected, Boschini said. The process of cutting expenses and promoting cost consciousness is ongoing, he said, and administrators are encouraged to continue sharing any ideas they might have to cut costs in their departments.

This goal was mandated by the Chancellor’s office and was accepted by the Board of Trustees, Provost Nowell Donovan said. Each school has been asked to cut 8 percent of their operating budgets, he said.

Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences, said the college is looking for more efficient ways to operate.

“We’re shaving off that 8 percent in all different areas,” Burns said. “We can be creative and do more with less and still provide a quality program.”

Something as simple as communicating assignments and objectives to students through the Internet instead of printed paper can make a difference in department costs, Burns said.

Donovan said that faculty reports and papers submitted for promotion and tenure consideration will be sent electronically in order to save both trees and money.

“Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves,” he said. “We’re slimming down – we’re not amputating.”

Donovan also said that the university’s new hiring policy will save money by deferring the creation of new positions. The policy allows for existing seats to remain in place, and those that become vacant can be filled by new faculty members, but new positions will not be created, he said.

“It is not a hiring freeze,” Donovan said.

Donovan said he remained optimistic about maintaining the quality of the university’s academic programs despite the budget cuts.

Homer Erekson, dean of the Neeley School of Business, said the implementation of budget cuts is a work in progress. There are no specific cost-cutting programs in place within the Neeley School yet, he said. However, the administration intends to follow certain principles, like synergy and creativity, in order to cut costs, he said.

“It’s about being smart and efficient,” Erekson said.

Burns anticipates that faculty travel will be a key area to decrease operational costs. In the face of rising travel costs, departments will be looking for low airfare for faculty members who will be traveling to present papers or attend national meetings, she said.

Burns said she expects the effect of the budget cuts on the quality of academic programs to be minimal, and maintaining quality is the most important goal.

“I don’t expect our quality to suffer,” Burns said. “We won’t let that happen.”

Erekson said a strength of the Neeley School and the university as a whole is the strong private support that provides financial backing beyond tuition.

“That gives us a base to support programs,” Erekson said. “I think we’re well-positioned to make smart choices that will get us through this situation.”