WASHINGTON, DC— Public colleges and universities rank the
identification and implementation of cost containment strategies among
their top institutional priorities, according to a study released today
by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)
and SunGard Higher Education. Based on a survey of 114 AASCU member
institutions, the study also provides insight into highly replicable
“best practices” that could produce effective cost savings and thus
increase academic affordability, access and institutional
“The results of this survey show that public colleges and
universities have a vital interest in reducing operational costs on
campus, and many successful efforts have been undertaken," says AASCU
President Constantine Curris. Commissioned by AASCU to determine the
extent to which cost containment activities are taking place at state
colleges and universities, the survey also sought to explore specific
sources of cost containment.
The report identifies eight avenues of cost containment and
found that institutions primarily rely on three distinct cost
containment areas: Facilities and Infrastructure (87 percent), Business
Services and Processes (83 percent) and Academic Programming (82
percent). Within these broader margins, the study shows the single
most relied upon individual cost containment source is energy management
at 83 percent, followed by consortium purchasing at 61 percent. Other
sources include facilities management, use of adjunct faculty, bookstore
operations, and food service/residence hall operations.
Data suggest that although cost containment activities largely
center on business and support functions, most respondents are willing
to consider other areas where cost savings could be achieved. Also of
importance is the finding that although respondents are eager to engage
in cost containment measures, some report that there is an insufficient
amount of funding, staff and time allocated to actual cost containment
“We believe that public higher education has never been more
important to this nation,” stated William H. Graves, senior vice
president for academic strategy, SunGard Higher Education. “Our
economic prosperity and future competitiveness depend, in part, on
affordable access to higher education. For their part, AASCU
institutions are making cost containment a priority in order to help
ensure affordability of access while meeting the national imperative to
enroll, support and graduate more students from all walks of the
Based on the study’s findings, the report offers six
recommendations for increased institutional savings. One recommendation
encourages institutions to continue to take full advantage of cost
containment opportunities in business services and processes, while also
seeking greater cost savings in the area of academic programming
(without impinging upon the quality of instruction or student learning
The findings reveal that although many schools are engaged in
cost containment activities, too few actually evaluate and report cost
saving effectiveness. Therefore, among the recommendations is a call
for state colleges and universities to be more proactive in both
quantifying and communicating their cost containment efforts. Analysts
suggest that this is key not only to decision-making, but also to
increasing accountability and transparency. The report encourages
schools to publish cost containment data, perhaps alongside average net
tuition and state appropriations.
The results of the study were analyzed by an independent market
research firm, Isurus Market Research and Consulting, and were given
contextual analysis by AASCU and SunGard Higher Education.
Institutions provided data through an online survey open from November
2007 through January 2008.
The report is available online at www.aascu.org.
AASCU is the leadership association of 430 public colleges and
universities Delivering America’s Promise through their common
commitments to access, affordability and educational opportunity.
Enrolling more than 3 million students annually throughout the U.S. and
its territories, these institutions fulfill the expectations of a public
university by working for the public good through education,
stewardship and engagement, thereby improving the lives of people in
their community, their region and their state.
SunGard and the SunGard logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of
SunGard Data Systems Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and other
countries. All other trade names are trademarks or registered trademarks
of their respective holders.