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Articles: Operational Efficiencies

Typically, an Office of Sponsored Research operates with limited staff while being taxed with an overwhelming workload of grant management activities. A handful of staff is often responsible for pre- and post-award administration, effort certification, detailed budget tracking, documenting encumbrances and expenditures, reporting and meeting federal mandates.

To address these challenges, smart organizations streamline the grant management process. Offered here are seven specific habits typically put into place by an effective Office of Sponsored Research.

Mary Ellen Mazey is president of Bowling Green State University.

Much has been written about the future role of the traditional university. In the traditional higher education model, the need to adapt to the future pressures of competition and demographics will be necessary for survival of many small private colleges and numerous public institutions.

Working together, campus buyers and facilities staff can ensure that dollars for equipment needs are wisely spent.

Who would ever think that replacing simple lightbulbs could end up costing a university hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or that a piece of equipment destined for a building’s basement could nearly cause the destruction of an exterior wall, with an associated price tag in the tens of thousands of dollars, because the system was too large to fit through a doorway and too heavy to ride on an elevator?

The authors were the founders of Touro University International (TUI), which at first was an online branch of Touro College and later became a separately accredited university by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. TUI remained within the Touro College and University System from 1998 to 2007. It was then sold and became a stand-alone, for-profit university, currently known as Trident University International. During its nine years of operation within the Touro System, TUI generated more than $270 million dollars in net earnings.

A fresh look: When the library at Grand Valley State U was remodeled, useable furniture got new life on other parts of campus rather than being placed into storage.

Furniture asset management has been a big efficiency win for institutions. Facilities managers say inventory tracking, storage, and reusing or repurposing every piece of furniture an institution owns are keys to the process.

The University System of Georgia has worked to combine several more of its higher education institutions this year in what is likely the nation’s most aggressive and high-profile campus consolidation program.

Around the country, institutions are merging at a slower pace, with some proposed consolidations collapsing under backlash from students and other community members.

Every day when an employee resigns from their job, either voluntarily (or involuntarily) they’re “walking out the door” with a very valuable asset. No these instances don’t require security or are considered criminal in nature. What they leave with is their institutional knowledge or memory from their last organization. This is what happens to an organization loses its best, brightest, most experienced and knowledgeable employees. What do they take with them, and what do we lose? Part of it is the organization’s institutional knowledge or history.

Course scheduling is tied integrally to two of an institution’s most expensive resources—facilities and faculty.

Course scheduling is tied integrally to two of an institution’s most expensive resources—facilities and faculty. Managing schedules involves more than just cracking a complex logistical code each semester—it’s also a potential bane or boon to the operating budget.

Appalachian State University (N.C.): Policy says that faculty should generally not be paid extra for teaching courses on top of normal course loads. It mentions making other arrangements, such as a course reduction the following semester.

California State University: Overload assignment may not exceed 25 percent of a full-time position.

Bill Berg is an enrollment management consultant at Scannell & Kurz, a RuffaloCODY company.

The often-used businesses term “right-sizing” has in recent years become common in higher education. Though sometimes used as a euphemism for “downsizing,” it more rightly refers to an effort to optimize enrollment, human resources, programs and facilities—in other words, fixed costs.

There are a host of factors that should go into the analysis when an institution is attempting to match demand with its capacity to meet that demand.

Marist University's open-source HR recruitment system saves money and attracts higher-quality candidates.

“Your reputation is at risk.” That was the message relayed to Marist College Vice President and CIO Bill Thirsk by a hiring manager who had been contacted by a former employment candidate. The job seeker had attempted to apply for a position through the New York college’s online employment system, only to give up because the user experience was so frustrating.

Since 1995, the University of Alabama has issued electronic debit and ID cards, called Action Cards, to its students. These personalized, chip-and-magnetic-stripe plastic cards provide students with access to buildings and events, meals in the dining halls and spending money for on- and off-campus retailers. The cards also have a photo on the front for visual identification.

Located in Myrtle Hall, the Pratt Institute’s Bursar and Financial Aid offices have taken a holistic approach to serving students.

Managing personal finance is difficult enough for working professionals. For college students, it can be almost impossible. Part of the reason is that there are multiple finance-related aspects to higher education, and they have different, often confusing languages, says Nedi Goga, executive director of student financial services and compliance at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Digitized recordkeeping streamlines processes for staff working in Admissions and Records while also providing students with access to forms at any time.

Higher education administrators looking to increase efficiency frequently cite document management as a major roadblock. Even so, the numerous flaws in the system used by the College of the Desert’s admissions and records department went beyond the typical woes.

University of Montana gave Pinecone Awards as part of the web template project launch, with awards given to staffers in categories such as best user experience and most innovative.

Faced with increased competition for students and declining enrollment, the University of Montana centralized the oversight of its web presence to create a unified look and feel across all of its websites. The use of new templates reduced reliance on outside design firms, cut costs, helped meet accessibility compliance, and increased the pace at which new sites were created.