Recent issues of the Chronicle of Higher Education have highlighted the fresh approaches that a few different schools have taken and how these approaches have assisted them in evaluating their budgets. Some of the themes that have been noted are:
- Don't be afraid to try something different. For most schools, budgeting is highly centralized as are the decisions on when and where to make cuts. Wooster College, in Wooster, Ohio, engaged all members of its campus in identifying areas for efficiency. This helped the school identify budget cost reductions of approximately 3% - not bad! While these ideas were typically one-time improvements or cuts, they can help reduce the cost basis for future budgets.
- Sweat the small stuff – but don’t lose focus on the larger goals. Don’t overlook little ideas like those that Wooster implemented, such as setting all printers to print double-sided. These small cuts can really add up in certain departments. Make sure, though, that the cost-cutting measures add up to something meaningful and significant. Don’t make it harder or more burdensome for the organization than it is worth.
- Transparency is hard, but it is necessary. Engaging all constituents in the process can be very hard, since, depending on the group, they may or may not have the background or knowledge to understand the process, decisions or reasons for past budgets. However, providing a healthy level of transparency is necessary for all groups – staff, faculty and students – for them to be engaged in the process.
- Be careful to strike a balance – but at the same time, don’t be afraid to question those sacred cows. Evaluate all ideas received from all groups and consider them. How would a suggestion from one group impact another? Would this change or challenge academic quality or standards? Is there a reason we have always done it this way?
At the conclusion, make sure you share the lessons learned, as well as the successes. Everyone wants to have a success story to share. Fostering this type of atmosphere can encourage individuals to come forward in the future with other great ideas and suggestions to help stretch each dollar further.