TIER forum: 17 cases selected for detailed look

Consultants working on the state Board of Regents' efficiency study believe it's possible that the three state universities annually could save:

  • $16 million to $40 million by collaborating on more vending contracts
  • $11 million to $27 million by changing IT service models, reducing the number of applications and using less-expensive hardware, like thin client machines
  • $1 million to $1.5 million by undertaking more energy-saving initiatives


View the 110-minute forum video.

These were among efficiency ideas presented during a June 24 public forum, which drew approximately 100 members of the university community to Howe Hall and 74 viewers to the livestream webcast.

The forum marked the juncture between the first and second phases of the regents' Transparent, Inclusive Efficiency Review (TIER) of the three state universities.

Numerous preliminary proposals for reducing costs, increasing revenue and improving service were developed over the 10-week first phase as consultants collected large amounts of data and conducted nearly 400 interview sessions at the three universities.

Selected opportunities to be scrutinized

The regents and their consulting firm, Deloitte Consulting, narrowed those proposals to 17 that appear to offer the greatest efficiencies and cost savings. Deloitte labels the opportunities as "business cases," a reference to the detailed costs-benefits analyses that will be applied to them during the just-begun phase 2 of the review.

Deloitte project manager Virginia Fraser pointed out that the scrutiny applied to the business cases during the coming weeks likely will bring some changes to the opportunities list.  Some savings estimates may go up while others fall. Some opportunities may be dropped or revised.

"This is the normal course of a project like this and it's part of a healthy process," Fraser said.

Business cases

Business cases will be built around these proposals during coming weeks:

Sourcing and procurement

  • Negotiate more favorable contracts for targeted spending categories. Example: The three state universities might combine medical waste, biological waste, chemical waste and solid waste into a larger category called waste management and negotiate volume discounts.


  • Simplify how finance processes are performed and streamline them. Example: Instead of involving many staff members across campus in processing travel expenses, it may make sense to have fewer trained individuals provide those services.

Human resources

  • Simplify human resources. Look for ways to consolidate transactions to improve services.
  • Establish clear policies for search committees for Professional and Scientific staff with key goals of finding quality applicants and filling positions in a timely manner.

Strategic space utilization

  • Improve classroom space usage through scheduling policies.
  • Optimize faculty allocation through a data-informed, student-centered course schedule. Factor in teaching loads, contractual loads and average enrollments taught.

Facilities management

  • Reduce utilities operations and costs by reducing the number of classroom buildings used during evenings and the summer.
  • Invest in energy management initiatives that pay for themselves in three to four years.

Information technology

  • Simplify the distributed IT model. Strengthen collaboration between distributed and central IT services.
  • Transform the central IT service delivery model. Streamline overlaps in functions within the IT teams.
  • Simplify the IT applications portfolio across the three universities
  • Use less expensive technologies, like thin client machines (desktop substitutes) and voiceover IP (ISU phone systems)

Student services

  • Create a common application portal among the three universities as a convenience for prospective students.
  • Standardize "manual" calculation of the Regent Admission Index. The manual workaround process for all three universities should mimic the automatic acceptance.

Academic programs

  • Collaborate to provide more distance education opportunities at the undergraduate level, filling the needs of nontraditional students and generating revenue as well.
  • Develop system-wide institutional research reporting across the three universities, providing the data needed to make good decisions and track trends.
  • Strengthen academic programs to achieve maximum competitiveness. This involves ensuring cost-effective delivery of student learning outcomes through better programmatic  configurations, faculty mix, and mix of class sizes so students can expeditiously complete their programs.

Focus turns to academics in September

By design, the review of administrative areas has proceeded on the fast track this spring and summer, with work in academic areas going much slower. Consultants are using the summer months to collect institutional data on academic areas. Work in academic areas will pick up in the fall, starting with a two-hour workshop early in September.

Leath: A good opportunity

President Steven Leath affirmed Iowa State's long-term commitment to efficiency and called the regents review "a great opportunity, because any resources we recover and find during this process, we get to keep right here on this campus and reinvest in ways that will improve our operation."

Regent and TIER committee chairman Larry McKibben said the efficiency study so far has yielded an estimated $30 million to $80 in potential savings.