Allen outlines efficiency savings, regents approve state funding request

Iowa State units have saved more than $22.7 million in cost reductions or avoided future costs since 2014, interim President Ben Allen told the state Board of Regents during a special meeting Sept. 25.

The board faces an Oct. 1 deadline to submit its funding requests to the governor and Legislature for the fiscal year that begins next July 1. As part of that process and on the heels of more than $30 million in state funding cuts to the three regent universities from last year to this year -- and the need to reverse those cuts -- the regents asked the schools to compile data on their efficiency and cost-saving achievements.

Noting he wasn't presenting a comprehensive list, Allen said it would give board members "an appreciation for just how seriously we've taken the charge to operate more efficiently," particularly since 2014, when the board's TIER (Transparent Inclusive Efficiency Review) initiative launched.

"Efficiency is part of our culture at Iowa State," he said.

ISU cost reductions and avoided costs since FY14





















*Includes functions such as purchasing supplies, equipment and services; professional development;, printing, travel; communications

Allen said he and senior leaders, along with their teams, identified more that 115 projects that either reduced costs or, by their implementation, allowed the university to avoid anticipated costs. Examples among the three categories included:

Salary and benefits

  • College of Design reorganization to centralize leadership and administrative support, $340,000
  • Colleges of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Engineering joint venture in online education, $114,000
  • ISU Police adjusted staff schedules to avoid overtime pay, $50,000+
  • Controlling employee health care costs. Lower than projected claims costs saved Iowa State $2.2 million in FY15 and an estimated $3.2 million in FY16


  • More than half of the savings was achieved in purchasing, a major focus of TIER. For example, a renegotiated DELL contract saved $4.1 million over computer retail prices.
  • Standardized phone services saves $160,000 annually


  • The university's cogeneration power plant and efficiency efforts in new and existing buildings reduces energy consumption each year

Allen noted that efficiency will remain a priority for Iowa State, particularly since a five-year tuition proposal includes annual internal reallocations totaling at least 2.25 percent of the general fund operating budget. In the fiscal year that begins next July 1, that target amounts to $16.2 million. He said he has begun discussions with campus shared governance groups to identify strategies for reaching the mark.

"We are committed to making tough decisions about what we should be doing, as well as what we should stop doing, and then reinvesting those savings into our academic mission," he said.

FY19 appropriations request

Without discussion, the board approved an appropriations request for next year that includes an additional $12 million; $5 million each for Iowa State and the University of Iowa, and $2 million for the University of Northern Iowa. The incremental funds would be designated for resident undergraduate financial aid. The state ranks last in the nation in state need-based aid awarded to public university students.

The regents' FY19 request remains flat for all appropriations designated to specific ISU units -- for example, the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, research park, and Ag Experiment Station. The board is requesting an additional $3.2 million in tuition replacement funds system-wide. This is the mechanism by which the state reimburses the universities for payments made (from tuition revenue) on state bonds issued for campus building projects. The need for these dollars is lower than usual in the current year due to savings gained from previous refunding bond issuances with lower interest rates.