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Models of Efficiency

This awards program is no longer running.

A look at the big picture of mobile use throughout campus revealed  hundreds of service plans, and it became clear that consolidation was in order. Now there are just 12 accounts.

When was the last time you took a good, long look at your wireless bill? What it contains might surprise you. An international roaming plan used for a trip last year that you neglected to cancel, perhaps. Scores and scores of unused minutes that roll over into infinity. Or 411 calls made despite your smartphone’s ability to search the web.

In taking a look at a year’s worth of wireless invoices, administrators at the University of Massachusetts found the system was spending a lot of money it didn’t have to.

When you think about the blinding pace of technological change, it’s a wonder the University of Iowa’s student information system worked for as long as it did.

More than 30—yes, 30—years old, Iowa’s SIS was less an integrated series of data processing functions and more a collection of individual siloed systems that didn’t work very well together. Because the underlying technology and architecture were so old, enhancements were difficult. Data were redundant and difficult to synchronize. And manual, paper-based processes frustrated users.

Since UB’s Models of Efficiency program launched in 2010, more than 100 campus departments have been honored for their efforts in saving resources while enhancing service. We’ve shared their initiatives, but with efficiency stories, there is no “The End.” This year, we will periodically check in with past honorees to catch readers up on the institutions’ latest, greatest efficiency successes.

With key performance indicators published online, anyone can eyeball the improvements the IT department has made.

The explosion of technological devices, software, and apps has been undeniably beneficial to higher education, but there is at least one group on which it has placed quite a burden: those charged with keeping all of that technology running smoothly.

“Technology support is a challenge no matter where you are,” says Chris Megill, associate director of technology services at The George Washington University (D.C). “Keeping up with trends and user demands as they adopt more and more technologies can be quite a challenge.”

Identifying niche services, including an Apple store, increased campus store sales by more than 3 percent, even with lower overall enrollment  at the university this year compared to last.

Just as sales in the publishing industry have been declining, the University of Southern Indiana (USI) Campus Store, in Evansville, has seen sales fall an average of 10 percent per year the last few years.

With new and used book sales accounting for 60 percent of revenue in the store, Steve Bridges, assistant vice president for finance and administration, and his team knew something had to be done.

Most college students have a need for academic or financial aid counseling at some point during their college career, whether to get help with course selection or to sort through GI Bill paperwork. Any of the 600 students at Wayland Baptist University’s Phoenix campus in need of this help used to have to spend a fair amount of time just setting up such a meeting.

Like virtually every other administrative unit in higher education, the Information Technology Division at Valdosta State University in Georgia employed students to supplement the efforts of full-time staff. They were deployed in about 50 classrooms and computer labs across campus, where they helped monitor the use of nearly 1,500 desktop computers.

Assessing staffing issues a year ago, administrators realized that expectations for those students were set by the individual departments each classroom and lab served.

Volunteer mentors assisting students academically is part of a three-pronged approach to helping at-risk students and boosting retention.

Not so long ago, students at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City whose semester grade-point averages fell below a certain level were placed on academic probation. But it did very little to get them the help they needed.

Merging departments and cross-training employees reduced the campus “run-around” and eased staff burden.

Delivering student services as important as tutoring, disability assistance, and advising is especially vital at LDS Business College, an open-enrollment school whose student body often faces hardships.

Yet the offices and departments that delivered those services were located all across campus, making it difficult to ensure that students made it to where they needed to go when they had multiple issues to be addressed.

Technology-based exams are a good fit for the pharmacy school, which is housed in a $75-million, technology-rich facility that opened this fall.

After tripping over boxes of old exams at the College of Pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island for the umpteenth time, clinical faculty members Kelly Matson and Jayne Pawasauskas decided there had to be a better system.

Since exams are required to be kept for two semesters, the amount of paper used and boxes needed to store them at the institution became unwieldy. Add to that the amount of time needed to photocopy exams, the money spent on paper and toner cartridges, and the negative impact on the environment.

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