The third forum on the plans to save money and increase the efficiency of the three state-supported universities featured questions on a variety of issues. The Board of Regents hosted the final forum today at Iowa State University in Ames.
One of the questioners asked about the amount of money generated by the athletic department and how that impacts ISU’s overall budget. ISU President Steven Leath answered. “The athletic department is a big budget, but it’s approximately 60 million of a one-point-three-billion-dollar operation. So, it is by no means a major part of our budget, it’s actually a minor part of our budget,” Leath says. “And we worked hard over the last few years to remove all academic money from athletics, so that it is self-supporting, rather than have money going from the core mission to athletics.”
Leath says the athletic department is planning on doing more to help the university. He says the department for instance, is planning on helping recreation services with facilities. “I’m not as concerned about that issue as I would have been a few years ago, in the sense that it is a small part of the budget and they are contributing,” according to Leath.
Leath also says the whole sports situation is likely to undergo major changes as the discussion on paying student athletes moves forward. “It is likely with the numerous lawsuits going around the country on athletics and student athletes — the Big 12 and subsequently us have been named in many of those lawsuits — I suspect the revenue model in athletics will be adjusted over the next few years. And not in a positive way,” Leath says.
The Deloitte consulting firm says it expects to save the universities 30 to $80 million through the review. Another question at the ISU forum asked if greater efficiency might impact the number of employees at the school. Deloitte director, Rick Ferraro, says they cannot guarantee there won’t be staff cuts, but he says that’s not the main focus. “This isn’t, as I said early on, this is not a cutting exercise. And we would have answers by now if all we were asked to do is to come in and cut,”Ferraro says.
He says that is why the process will take many months. “To figure out how to improve the value-to-cost ratio by adjusting the way you operate takes a lot more work and a lot more analysis and a lot more working with you to develop solutions that gets you into those first two categories, and avoiding that third category,” Ferraro explains. He says they want to work with the schools to find the best solutions for using the money that’s available .”We’re in this together, we all have the same objective. We are not interested in reducing staff levels just because. That’s not our intent,” Ferraro. He says there are some areas such as purchasing where they may suggest adding staff to help achieve greater efficiency.
Ferraro says they are now in the process of narrowing down the focus of the proposals. “We were asked to be aggressive, we were asked to be thorough, and that’s you have 97 pages of ideas. Some of which we would not recommend get implemented. We don’t think it’s the right, or it’s just not appropriate. But we did thought it was appropriate based on the charge that we were given that we needed to articulate some of those,” Ferraro says.
The Board of Regents has authorized $3.5 million for the first two phases of the study.