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Report Details Ways UConn Could Save Money

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(Read the full report.)

By STEPHANIE REITZ, Associated Press

STORRS, Conn. (AP) _ The University of Connecticut could save more than $50 million over five years by consolidating more purchasing decisions and technology services, boosting ticket prices for high-demand sports and kicking its fundraising into higher gear, a new consultants’ report says.

The recommendations unveiled Thursday also include offering more year-around classes rather than scaling back each summer, charging more for parking and bus rides, and examining whether small academic majors and waning programs are valuable enough to justify continuing them.

UConn trustees received the recommendations from McKinsey & Co., which it paid $3.9 million last year to suggest ways to cut costs and boost income as the school’s state subsidies drop.

McKinsey says that over five years, UConn could save $39 million to $67 million through cuts, depending on which recommendations it adopts. It could also raise $14 million to $30 million in non-tuition revenue, although UConn President Susan Herbst said any fee increases would be discussed with students, employees and others who would be affected before decisions are made.

“The campus has a lot of hard discussions ahead on how to implement (them),” she said.

UConn officials say some ideas are already going into place, such as consolidating some technology services to reduce the number of individual servers, help desks and other costs spread across the main campus and its branches. Higher parking fees are also being considered.

UConn trustees didn’t immediately decide on the recommendations or say which ones they favored, but said the $3.9 million paid to McKinsey will be recouped by June 2012 with savings the school has already put in place based on the report.

“(It) is a good report and it is showing areas we can improve in and save money as we go through this very, very difficult economic time,” said UConn trustees board Chairman Lawrence McHugh.

The university commissioned the study last year as it became clear that the state government’s allocation would continue to decrease and that increasing tuition too drastically would be counterproductive and drive students away.

Tuition and fees did increase 2.5 percent this fall, the smallest percentage increase in years. The state’s allocation also dropped as predicted and at $207 million, it is at its lowest level since 2005.

UConn officials say the McKinsey recommendations pointed out several areas where savings could occur immediately, such as making more centralized purchasing decisions to get better deals on large orders.

Some ideas might be thorny if adopted, though, because they anticipate buying certain items like chairs and furnishings from the lowest-cost vendors and eliminating the preference for Connecticut-based businesses.

Other recommendations included:

_ Increasing ticket prices for basketball and football games, potentially charging premium prices for the highest-demand games and setting up annual reviews through UConn’s business school to study supply, demand and ticket price structures.

_ Reviewing whether UConn should spend as much as it does on sports: $10 million on scholarships, $12.5 million on coaching salaries and $6.4 million on team travel, among the highest in the Big East. The consultants said the expenses might reflect the necessary costs of maintaining such a successful athletics program but, given UConn’s financial constraints, they are worth reviewing.

_ Offering more online classes. To that recommendation, Herbst said that UConn is “leaving money on the table” if it doesn’t work harder to catch up with other schools who’ve boosted online courses.

_ More aggressive fundraising efforts, potentially by hiring more people for the UConn Foundation. The report noted that the independent fundraiser has higher staff turnover than many similar foundations and that retaining strong employees would help build long-term relationships to bring in more gifts from alumni, corporations and other donors.

_ Reviewing which faculty and staff positions need to be filled when people leave and which can be lost through attrition without affecting particular services or academic programs.

_ Increasing fees for premium dorm rooms and conducting more of the dining halls’ meal preparations at a few centralized spots on the Storrs campus, a change from current dining procedures in which each dorm has different menus and different chefs. The report noted, though, that making that recommended change “may result in a slight decline in food quality or student experience.”

     (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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