Board of Regents discuss business cases


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Regent Larry McKibben listens to speakers during the Iowa Board of Regents meeting Sept. 10 in the Sun Room of the Memorial Union.

Danielle Ferguson

Iowa State could save millions of dollars, but an administrative reconstruction could decrease the number of human resources and IT staff, if the Board of Regents decides to move forward with suggested efficiency study proposals.

Deloitte Consulting, the consulting firm hired to perform the efficiency review of the three regent universities, presented eight administrative business cases from phase two of the study Thursday at the Scheman Building in Ames.

The eight business cases — which are opportunities Deloitte discovered at each university to make the institutions more efficient — involve human resources, finance, information technology and facilities administrative processes.

The board did not vote on any of the proposals. Thursday’s meeting was strictly informational and the board will have a little more than a month and a half to review the information and listen to community feedback before voting on each case individually in mid-November.

Deloitte discovered decentralized finance and human resources systems at Iowa State — meaning each college and/or department has its own system to perform finance transactions and human resource duties.

Deloitte’s Emily Todd said a shared services operation, or a more central system to perform the financial transactions and human resource duties, at Iowa State could be beneficial for the university.

“Each unit has dedicated budget and accounting staff, but departments rely heavily on out-of-pocket administrative support for finance services,” Todd said. “This jack-of-all trades model often leaves staff feeling overwhelmed by the number of policies they have to be proficient in.”

Restructuring the current administrative systems to be more efficient would result in a natural attrition – the gradual decrease in the number of employees by “natural” reasons, such as resignation or retirement of full-time equivalent staff members.

“Potential changes to the way that work is performed could affect the organizational structure and staffing levels at individual universities,” said Deloitte project manager Virginia Fraser. “As processes are simplified and technology is further used to support transactions using modern technology, the staffing needed to support different kinds of work may naturally be reduced.”

Two finance remodel options were presented for Iowa State. The first, a college-based model that would have each college manage its own finances, would save about $1.7 million and reduce the equivalent of 23 full-time staff members by natural attrition over a two year stretch, according to a Deloitte report.

The second, a university-wide sharing finance model, would decrease staff by 95 but add 45 new FTE positions to be specialized in the shared service over a four-year period, according to a 138 page packet.

The report said that the year two cost for attrition “assumes additional phased retirement program for eligible staff.”

Human resource administrative cases could result in the natural attrition of up to the equivalent of 60 full time staff.

Staffing changes would be handled by the board and the universities, not Deloitte.

“We recognize the sensitivity of this topic,” Fraser said.

The Board of Regents hired Deloitte Consulting to perform the comprehensive review of Iowa’s public universities in February 2014 to study each university’s financial, educational and administrative functions to make them more efficient. All money saved from the suggestions will go back to each university.

Regent Larry McKibben said it is the board’s responsibility to watch out for students and their families to keep tuition and fees low and education available.

“We want to take responsibility for the financial burden,” McKibben said. “We have fairly high financial burden. With that, we have an obligation to those families…we want Iowa to be the education destination and be cost efficient.”

The eight efficiency proposals were the last of 12 total administrative cases.

Town hall meetings for the public will be held at each regent university. Iowa State’s town hall meeting is scheduled for Oct. 13.