SUNY Saves $6M Through Shared Services

5:59 PM, Sep 19, 2012   |    comments
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By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau

ALBANY -- The State University of New York has put more than $6 million back into the classroom and student services by combining some campuses' administration and back-office operations.

Since last August, campuses have been looking for ways to save money through consolidation. The funds will be reallocated to directly serve students, including to the hiring of new professors.

"This is just the beginning as we continue to review where and how we can streamline our administrative costs and share best practices across SUNY," system Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said in a statement.

The most public examples are new shared presidencies of two pairs of campuses: SUNY colleges at Delhi and Cobleskill in neighboring Delaware and Schoharie counties, respectively; as well as Morrisville State College and SUNY Institute of Technology, in Madison and Oneida counties, respectively.

A shared presidency between SUNY colleges at Canton and Potsdam is under consideration, as well.

"The stuff that catches people's attention is, well, what's going to happen to person x and person y," Zimpher said during a recent meeting with Gannett's Albany Bureau. "And we're working through that. But we are also holding people's feet to the fire."

Zimpher said universities and colleges that share administrators or services will retain their individual identities.

"If the mascot stays the same, and the school pledge and the mission and the graduation -- the ceremonial and the fiscal plan is still there, I bet you, most people don't care how many CFOs you have," she said. "And they never have. Ask anybody: We're top heavy. Cut out those administrators and life will go a lot better."

But more widespread than sharing administrators is sharing back-office operations, like accounts payable workloads, or entering joint bids for purchases of athletic apparel or janitorial supplies.

Twenty-seven campuses, separated into four regions, are working together to save money on elevator maintenance, for example.

Led by Purchase College in Westchester County, campuses that have anywhere from 40 elevators to 140 elevators will purchase services from the same company. Because that company will win such a large bid -- and that bid will be for five years with the option to renew for another five -- it will be able to provide a lower price.

Currently, campuses pay about $3 million a year on average for elevator maintenance.

Additionally, campuses in western New York and the Finger Lakes will share printing services.

Alfred State in Allegany County will print materials for Geneseo, in Monroe County, and Fredonia, in Chautauqua County, so the latter campuses do not have to pay private companies.

"It just sort of makes sense," said James Milroy, Geneseo's vice president for administration and finance. "If we can take advantage of the fact that we're all members of the same system, we can save money and be more productive."

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