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Firm studying cost-cutting at universities to visit UNI

University of Northern Iowa

By MacKenzie Elmer

The consulting firm hired to cut costs at Iowa’s three public universities will visit the University of Northern Iowa campus to answer questions during a public forum on Monday. The Iowa Board of Regents approved a $2.5 million contract for Deloitte in February to conduct the review.

Officials hope to scrutinize issues such as overlapping management and duplicate academic programs. The review could lead to more online classes and other efforts to limit tuition increases.

“A study like this hasn’t been done for 30 years,” Bruce Rastetter, board president, told the public forum gathered at Iowa State University on Tuesday. “All savings found will be reinvested in the university. … There will be nothing done that isn’t open and transparent in this process.”

But so far, the massive databases being compiled by each university are not accessible to the public.

UNI Provost Gloria Gibson told the Faculty Senate last month that Deloitte requested a huge amount of data on March 17 and asked it be compiled by March 21. But that was the week of spring break when many faculty, staff and students were away on vacation. That due date was pushed back a week to provide more time for data collection.

“It is better to have accurate information than rush,” Gibson said.

Virginia Fraser, Deloitte’s point-person for the Iowa study, told the ISU crowd last week that the firm is collecting data from both the academic and administrative parts of each university.

Consultants will look at policies and procedures, organizational charts, service areas, programs, budgets, annual reports, technology systems and spending on goods and services.

“To be clear, our objective is really to understand how you operate,” said Rick Ferraro, director at Deloitte.

Rastetter added that the company will also measure how often buildings are utilized by faculty, staff and students.

Jerry F. Smith, Faculty Senate chairman, said last month that faculty should not resist the study or push for the status quo. He asked instead for faculty to get involved in the review process and look for ways to make improvements at the university.

“If you think substantive change isn’t needed in American higher ed, including UNI, then you haven’t been paying attention,” he said. “UNI cannot afford to continue being same university it’s always been.”

But Joe Gorton, United Faculty president who requested to speak before senate, was cautious.

“There is nothing in the history of UNI or other universities to suggest that we will see significant reductions in bureaucracy. On the contrary, historical evidence makes it clear that when cuts are made the ax falls exclusively upon academic programs,” he said.

Deloitte will be conducting interviews with about 135 people on the UNI campus this week.

Scott Ketelsen, director UNI public relations, said those interviews will be not be public.

UNI initially had formed a task force to oversee the review, but Ketelsen said when UNI saw how quickly Deloitte was moving it was apparent it wouldn’t be of any use.

“It’s moving very quickly compared to maybe previous audits people have been through,” he said.

Deloitte visited University of Iowa on Tuesday.

The universities will shoulder the cost of the $2.5 million, 10-week first phase of the study. UNI is responsible for 10 percent of that cost, or $250,000. Cost estimates for the last two phases have not been released.

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