Measuring University Performance Series (MUPS)

Issue V:2
Efficiency

February 1, 1999

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Table of Contents:

The University of Florida series, Measuring University Performance, will take up additional topics reflecting the university's commitment to measuring university performance in quality and productivity of research, teaching, extension, and service.

All of us at the University of Florida welcome comments and suggestions prompted by this series. Please write to the Office of Institutional Planning and Research, PO Box 113115, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611-3115 (ufdata@aa.ufl.edu).

 

Introduction

Holding Down Costs

Focus on Efficiency

Managing Your UF Money

Purchasing and Travel Systems

Kiosks

Consolidated Student Accounts

Rewarding Efficiency

Introduction

Many people assume that it costs more to educate undergraduates at research institutions,when the opposite is often true. In the most recent state budget we received fewer dollars per lower level undergraduate FTE student than did our SUS counterparts precisely because it costs us less to educate these students. As shown in the table below, in 1997-98 we spent $5,107 per lower level undergraduate FTE-lowest in the SUS and 600 dollars less than the SUS average.

 

1997-98 Lower Level
Undergraduate
Expenditures per LL Undergrad FTE *

 Over/(Under)
SUS Average

UF

$ 5,107

(608)

SUS Average

5,715

 

Lowest

5,107

(608)

Median

6,361

647

Highest

7,477

1,763

*Analysis excludes Florida Gulf Coast University.

Based on expenditures for both upper and lower level undergraduate students, UF spent $205 less than the SUS average of $13,549 per undergraduate FTE.

Holding Down Costs

Between 1994 and 1997 we increased by 10% the number of student credit hours taught while decreasing by 1% the number of full-time ranked faculty employed. And, this is not due to a greater reliance on student teaching-the proportion of instruction done by graduate assistants has remained fairly constant since 1994 and has actually declined among lower level undergraduate courses.

In a 1995 study conducted by the University of Tennessee, UF had by far the lowest percentage of administrative costs (26.9% of the total unrestricted E&G expenditures) of any of the 12 southern public universities surveyed. Despite our lower administrative costs, we still spent much more of our total unrestricted budget on student services (7.3%) than did our peers (4.5% average)-not surprising given our emphasis on undergraduate education. Our percentage of institutional support expenditures (e.g., administrative affairs) was the second lowest of all schools at 8.6%.

Administrative Costs as a % of Total
Unrestricted E&G Expenditures

Florida

26.9%

Virginia Tech

30.0%

LSU

30.2%

Oklahoma

30.2%

So. Carolina

32.2%

Average

33.3%

NC State

33.5%

Virginia

34.0%

Auburn

34.1%

Tennessee

34.3%

Texas

35.8%

Georgia

37.3%

Arkansas

39.5%

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Focus on Efficiency

The projects we have initiated over the past three years are directly responsible for our ability to hold down costs. Our new performance-based budgeting system, the University of Florida Bank, allows us to see more clearly how we spend our dollars and permits us to reward productivity and quality. As a consequence of the Bank, we decentralized the management of budgets to college deans and departments, saving time, effort and paper.

Managing Your UF Money, the primary computer tool used by these units to manage their budgets, integrates a number of varied, complex and paper-laden systems into a simple, paperless online system. Budget transactions that formerly took days or even weeks are now accomplished in a matter of a few minutes.

Both our purchasing and travel request and reimbursement systems are now online, allowing the necessary forms and approvals to be created and routed electronically. These systems eliminate paper work and significantly speed up the approval and reimbursement process.

Several other projects not only save the university time and money, but also make the student experience at UF more pleasant. Our web-based Integrated Student Information System (ISIS) allows students to handle many financial, registration, advising and other tasks online that in the past would have required traveling on foot to several campus offices. In early 1997, we set up several kiosks on campus that essentially mirror what is offered on ISIS, but also provide additional useful features.

Universal Tracking, with its emphasis on proactive academic advising, helps keep students on course for graduation in the shortest time possible. We have auto-mated the registration process using ISIS and TeleGator (an online phone system) and can now assess and meet actual demand for courses throughout the registration period. In the past, we had only past demand to predict each semester's course offerings, and a shorter window of opportunity for adding new sections. Together, these new applications allow students to progress through the academic system much more efficiently than they did in the past. As a consequence, we handled our growing enrollment without increasing our staff.

Many of these applications have been written about in great detail in previous issues of Measuring University Performance-The Bank (September 1997), Universal Tracking (February 1998) and Undergraduates (ISIS)(May 1998). In this issue we highlight those that are either less widely publicized or newly implemented.

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Managing Your UF Money

In conjunction with the University of Florida Bank, we initiated a major, comprehensive project that integrated and created a highly complex set of automated budget-related applications available on the World Wide Web to more than 400 UF budget offices. Managing Your UF Money combined these varied systems so they appear to a user as a single management system. It transformed a complex and slow paper transaction system into a computer-based paperless budget management system.

In the past, everything we did in managing the financial affairs of the university-from hiring and promoting faculty and staff to purchasing equipment and buying supplies-involved weeks of work and a blizzard of paper for university approvals. With Managing Your UF Money, deans and their staff can quickly and easily track expenditures, make budget transfers, buy equipment, or create new positions. A dean can transfer funds from one account to another immediately, secure in the knowledge that the dollars exist and that the transaction will meet all state and university regulations.

This project has been extremely successful and well received on campus and has attracted interest from other state agencies and universities. Managing Your UF Money provides an estimated cost avoidance of $1.1 million annually. Moreover, as a result of both this system and the Bank, we have been able to transfer the authority to manage budgets from the university to the college deans. Managing Your UF Money provides the deans and their staff the necessary tools, while measuring results via the Bank eliminates the need to approve, at the university-level, expenditures or shifting of funds. Deans retain any savings at the end of the year for reinvestment in ways that enhance their college's quality and productivity.

Under the old system, where the central administration recovered all unspent funds, deans saw no reason to postpone expenses or to save for new investment and would spend as much as possible by the end of the year. Under the new, decentralized system, the university's budget this year contained $6.7 million in prior year savings-seven times the $1 million historically carried forward year after year.

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Purchasing and Travel Systems

The automation of our purchasing system and travel approval and reimbursement systems has significantly reduced the massive amounts of paper formerly associated with these processes. The online Purchasing Requisition Entry System has been in place since 1994 and all campus departments now do purchasing electronically. The Travel Request & Reimbursement Information Processing System (TTRIPS) was fully implemented after a very successful pilot test. Both applications work basically the same. When a department's fiscal staff person needs to purchase something or make travel arrangements they enter the information directly into Requisition Entry System or TTRIPS. The information is then automatically moved up the routing list to the person or persons at the next level for approval until it finally reaches a purchasing agent. If the request is rejected, it is returned electronically to the person who originally submitted it for changes or cancellation.

Because the purchasing and travel systems interface with our state accounting system, we eliminated duplicate data entry and reduced the number of input errors. The automation of our systems increased the accuracy of the information contained in the requisition or travel requests because it includes built-in checks for mathematical, logical, or policy errors. These online systems also provide an information base for statistical purposes and automatically create an accurate audit trail. The state comptroller agreed to forgo the yearly traditional and massive manual audit-a manual check of virtually every piece of paper related to every transaction-and instead, randomly select a few records to audit each year.

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Kiosks

Since early 1997, many students and visitors have been using UF's 10 free-standing electronic kiosks located throughout the campus to get a schedule of courses, pay their debts, find a campus building, or check their student records. Other features include answers to the most frequently asked questions, UF news and a listing of upcoming events, and miscellaneous information about the university. With over 20,000 information hits or transactions conducted at the kiosk at the beginning of Fall 1997 semester (August and September), this represented fewer people standing in lines or making phone calls to campus offices.

We are one of the first campuses nationwide to allow students to pay their student debts using a kiosk (or via TeleGator). Limited to debit cards initially, students now use a credit card to pay off all or some of their debt. Better yet, their transaction is real-time so that they can immediately register for classes upon clearing their debt. In the past, students would have to wait overnight for the transaction to register and remove the flag on their record. This service is increasingly popular with students-the $1.5 million in self-service payments made in January 1999 is nearly identical that of the entire 1998 calendar year. We expect usage to increase dramatically as students become more familiar with this service and student account payments via ISIS are added this spring.

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Consolidated Student Accounts

The university's information systems staff is currently developing a single, consolidated student account that will easily identify the total university debt owed by a student. Beginning this summer students will receive a monthly statement, much like a bank statement, that will outline how much they owe, what they owe it for, and how much they must pay to have their record-flag removed (i.e., be allowed to register). Students will be able to clearly see how much is owed for parking tickets, library charges, housing, tuition, medical fees, their GatorLink e-mail account, and other various charges. With the old system, statements came from various sources and were difficult to interpret. This unified account makes it easier for the student to understand the information provided on ISIS and the kiosks and eliminates redundant monthly mailings by multiple campus billing offices.

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Rewarding Efficiency

Evidence of our push for greater productivity and quality at UF are clearly shown in our number of Davis Productivity Award winners in recent years. This privately funded program, sponsored by Florida TaxWatch, The Florida Council of 100 and the state of Florida, rewards state employees whose achievements result in greater revenue or cost savings to the state. In the most recent competition, a team of UF/IFAS employees received the top award of $2,500 for developing the Florida Automated Weather Network. In 1997, we received 42 Davis awards, including cash rewards of $1500 for the Managing Your UF Money team and $600 for the ISIS team. Since 1995, UF has received 20 out of the 34 Davis Productivity cash awards given to SUS institutions.

And, it's not just the expansive, highly visible projects that make a difference. This year, a $600 Davis Productivity Award was given to the Assistant Custodial Services Superintendents at UF's Physical Plant Division's Building Services Department for developing an innovative budget program that ties accountability to authority. By making custodial supervisors responsible for management of their own cleaning supply budgets, the department realized an 11.8% reduction in supply expenses-a net annual savings of $46,500. The supervisors' efforts are monitored on a monthly basis, they receive regular feedback, and the program is part of their annual performance evaluation.

Another program implemented statewide by the Board of Regents in 1989 is designed to improve the quality of the SUS through the reallocation of existing resources or the realization of improved or new revenue opportunities. The Incentive/Efficiency Program provides bonuses-equal to 10% of the first year's annual savings or revenues-to individual employees. Since 1989, 157 proposals from UF faculty or staff have been submitted. Fifteen proposals have generated bonuses totaling $17,895 and ranging from $20 to more than $6,000.

The UF Bank, with its emphasis on productivity and quality, has been the driving force behind many of our recent initiatives, large and small. It provides a powerful incentive for departments and units to find new and innovative ways to hold down costs while maintaining or improving quality.

Diane D. Craig


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