Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Consolidation of College Bureaucracy: Effecting Change and Innovation

by Daniel L. Bennett

Every now and then we hear some positive news that is near and dear to us, something that we in some way had an indirect effect in making happen. Today is one of those days for me at CCAP. I read today (HT: Tim Ranzetta) that the University of Akron and Lorain County Community College are launching a
pilot project that the two schools hope will lay the foundation to create a standalone administrative services center that could provide back-office functions to more schools and possibly other organizations as well.
Given that the majority of students attend a public institution of higher education, it makes economic sense for these schools to consolidate, or even outsource, many of their back office functions. A report that I authored earlier this year, as well as an article that I wrote for Forbes, have helped raise awareness of the serious problem of administrative bloat on our nation's college campuses that has contributed to continual tuition hikes.

Now it seems that the public's awareness of this issue is leading campus officials to seek new strategies, along with the help of the Lumina Foundation's Productivity Grant Program, which provided the seed capital to launch the UA-LCCC pilot project. According to UA President Luis M. Proenza:
The UA/LCCC model of shared services defines how administrative services will be delivered in the future. Our institutions of higher education must work closely together to attain academic and operational successes that align with the goals of excellence, effectiveness and efficiency identified in the University System of Ohio’s 10-year Strategic Plan. The shared services initiative is an innovative approach that will help to meet those goals
The goal of the project is to promote shared administrative services among Ohio's public colleges via a central office. Generally, I get spooked by the term "centralization", but it has helped many organizations improve their operational efficiency through a consolidation of processes. According to James L. Sage, U of Akron's CIO:
Providing these required services centrally will eliminate the need for each institution to operate many of their own administrative services units, and improve the breadth and quality of services while significantly reducing administrative costs. Money saved on administrative services can be redirected to our core mission, which is teaching. This centralized shared services approach is used extensively in private industry and is being adopted by the federal government
This is a good start for what will hopefully become a trend to reduce the size of the campus bureaucracy.

1 comment:

Tripp said...

We need to be doing better than assuming that shared services is the way to go. Governments and businesses doing this are almost always wasting money. Let's think before we leap.

Regards, Tripp Babbitt