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Editor's Note

Honoring Higher Ed Business Savvy

University Business, Jan 2010

We're starting the new year by announcing a new recognition program here at University Business, a program that honors those administrative departments that have found a way to work smarter and better. We call it Models of Efficiency, and it gets to the heart of what University Business is all about, a message that is reflected in our tag line, "Solutions for Higher Education Management."

Models of Efficiency are those administrative departments that use technology and smart business processes to provide superior service to students, while maximizing resources. They are the ones who have streamlined operations to do more with less, and to do it better.

Over the years we've written about scores of institutions that have found technology and business process improvements to increase efficiency.

Models of Efficiency can do more with less, and they can do it better.

Maybe it involves freeing staff to concentrate on the jobs for which they were hired. For example, the Human Resources department at one university, responsible for more than 14,000 employees campus-wide, was spending enormous time and effort fielding routine questions about compensation, insurance, and other benefits. In addition, the hiring process at the school had become a morass of duplicated efforts from several areas just to get an applicant through the pipeline.

To resolve the problem, the department put much of its knowledge base online in a self-service website. Employees use the site to review job descriptions and classifications, find information about compensation and insurance, and more. Now the HR staff is free to focus on working with important cases. And, by mapping out the entire hiring process online, HR saves roughly 30 hours of staff time with each new hire.

Or, perhaps it's a technology solution, such as the one used by a community college. For years the school had distributed paper check refunds to students, either by mail or in person to students waiting in long lines at the bursar's office. The long lines meant staff had to be reallocated to accommodate the increased volume, taking them away from other work. Checks had to be printed, signed, recorded, stuffed into envelopes, and distributed. The staff also had to reconcile returned checks and locate students to confirm addresses, while still trying to maintain a level of general customer service.

The solution was an electronic fund disbursement system that saved considerable time, money, and resources. At refund time the school sends a file of student names and refund amounts, along with a wire for the total amount, to a disbursement company. The company collects student bank account information and refund preferences, handles bounced ACH payments and returned checks, fields any refund-related customer service inquiries, and provides access to real-time online reporting for campus staff. Students can elect to receive checks or have funds directly deposited to their accounts. In addition to the end of long lines, the college estimates annual cost savings of up to $100,000.

If your office or department has a solution to save time and money, tell us about it. It's easy to participate. Just complete an online form that asks you to describe your specific efficiency challenge and how you resolved it. Several times throughout the year we'll publish a special section of articles about many of the institutions chosen as University Business Models of Efficiency. They will also be featured in web seminars in which the participants will answer audience questions about time and cost savings realized, getting administrative and departmental buy-in, and more.

See page 20 in this issue for more information on the Models of Efficiency program, or visit and tell us your story.


Write to Tim Goral at