UC administrative efficiency program exceeds savings benchmark

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An administrative efficiency program to improve the UC system’s fiscal policies has already saved the university more than $400 million over the last three years.

The Working Smarter Initiative, which was launched in 2010, aims to save $500 million across the UC system by streamlining administrative operations to help the UC system reach financial sustainability. At its meeting Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents will discuss the progress of the initiative and plans for the coming fiscal year.

According to the regents’ agenda, the initiative will focus on smaller-scale improvements, such as campus-specific projects that help make the day-to-day business of each campus run more smoothly and improve campus life for students and faculty members, for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.

So far, the Working Smarter Initiative has exceeded its initial goal of reaching $300 million in three years by $161 million.

“Money from the state is never going to be the same,” said UC Office of the President spokesperson Brooke Converse. “Right now, we have to work towards saving money, and the university has to get creative. That’s going to forever be the case moving forward.”

In fiscal years 2012 and 2013, the initiative achieved its highest annual fiscal impact of $171 million in cost savings and new revenue. Cost-saving projects added up to $95 million, and new revenue totaled $76 million.

Some of the large contributors to the success between fiscal year 2012 and 2013 included projects such as the Statewide Energy Partnership, which aims to lower utility costs, and Liquidity Management, which rearranges money into a longer-term investment pool for a higher return.

The program saved the UC system about $157 million between fiscal years 2010 and 2011 and $132 million between fiscal years 2011 and 2012, according to the regents’ agenda. The $461 million accrued through the initiative in the past three years will be funneled directly to campuses to support the university’s core academic and research missions.

In 2009, UC Berkeley launched a separate initiative called Operational Excellence, a cost-cutting measure to streamline campus operations. While the these two projects share several similarities, Operational Excellence was not involved in the Working Smarter Initiative project proposal, said Caryl Miller, communications manager for the UC Berkeley Operational Excellence office.

“It’s important to remember this is a systemwide initiative,” Converse said. “These projects affect students heavily, but it might be harder for students on a specific campus to see on a daily basis.”

J. Hannah Lee covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]