Savings add up at UTC

Savings add up at UTC

September 17th, 2011 by Perla Trevizo in News

Staff Photo by Matt Fields-Johnson A student walks across the UTC campus


• Turn off unused computers and lights; raise or lower thermostats by 10 percent where appropriate; create incentives to save energy. Savings: $500,000

• Reduce commencement ceremonies from three to two. Savings: $20,000

• Standardize equipment and software or discontinue use where appropriate. Savings: $50,000

• Move university email from Mocsnet to Google Mail. Savings: $450,000

• Bill students electronically instead of using paper statements. Savings: $18,200

• Have students make credit card payments online through a third party and pay the convenience fee. Savings: $350,000

Source: The Board of Trustees' Committee on Effectiveness and Efficiency for the Future

Turning off lights and computers when not in use, reducing the number of picnics for faculty and staff and making students pay the fees for credit-card tuition payments.

All are tactics public universities and colleges across the state are considering as available funds decrease.

"It makes us very mindful of what we do all the time and why we do what we do," said Deborah Arfken, director of university planning at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

The August commencement ceremony was the last one UTC will hold for students completing their degrees over the summer. The university will save about $20,000 by holding only two commencement ceremonies each year, one in December and one in May.

To save an estimated $1.7 million, UTC is implementing 12 measures such as using electronic billing statements, turning off unused lights and computers and resetting thermostats in some buildings.

The UT board of trustees' committee on effectiveness and efficiency for the future identified 132 initiatives it said could save up to $52 million.

University of Tennessee system President Joe DiPietro.

University of Tennessee system President Joe DiPietro.

"As the economy continues to be unpredictable, it is crucial for the university to remain in a cost-conscious mode," UT President Joe DiPietro said in a news release.

He said UT began the fiscal year on July 1 down $112 million in state funding from 2008.

UTC's state appropriations for the current fiscal year were cut $779,400, or 2 percent. The school also lost about $25 million in federal stimulus funding.

In 2008, UTC also created an efficiency and effectiveness committee to look at possible cost-cutting measures, said Arfken, who served as chairwoman.

About 160 suggestions were submitted, ranging from changing to a different athletic conference to cutting back on travel costs and personal computers, she said.

The committee chose several measures, including discontinuing the two annual picnics for faculty and staff, Arfken said, although one was later reinstated. The picnics, meant to foster campus community, cost $9,000 to $10,000, she said.

"These are challenging economic times and I think that UTC has managed very well," said Richard Brown, vice chancellor for finance and operations.

"We've made some strategic decisions in regards to how to financially re-balance the institution and put us in a good position to move forward."

One of the most challenging decisions was eliminating positions as enrollment continues to grow, said Brown.

UTC also upped its tuition by 9.9 percent this year, to $6,718 annually for full-time students.

And this year it enrolled more students, a 6 percent increase to 11,429 students, up from 10,781 last year.

The school eliminated 23 full-time staff and 14 full-time faculty positions in fiscal 2010 to save about $2 million. It also eliminated more than $1 million set aside to pay adjunct faculty.

For 2011, 22 full-time staff jobs and one faculty position were eliminated for a total savings of $631,211.

Many of the cuts came from unfilled vacancies, said Arfken.

"We were very careful to not let people go," she said. "We worked really hard to prevent that."

But the result has been a higher student-teacher ratio in some classes, she said.

Brown said enrollment growth has helped with some of the financial challenges.

However, he added, "moving forward we really need to keep our eye on the financial ball in the next one to two years."

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