Let's Be Constructive!

In the crush of tight budgets, shaky state revenues, and a glacial economic recovery, isn't it time to put our heads together and try to come up with ways that Edison can save a few more dollars?

Even if the college can only save a few cents for itself, or for our students, shouldn't it be done?

So please, think outside the box (or inside it, if that's where you think best) and share your ideas through comments here. I'm confident that the more dedicated administrators and board members keep up with this blog.

A couple of rules just to prevent repetition:
  • Yes, we'd save money by firing your least-favorite people. No, let's not nominate them here; they've been mentioned elsewhere.
  • Yes, we'd save money by eliminating entire offices, programs, or initiatives. See above.
  • Please read the previous suggestions and don't copy them.
  • This is brainstorming; if you can improve on a previous suggestion, do so.
  • Offer constructive criticism if you think an idea misses the mark.

Since I don't mind going first, here's a few to start:

  1. The "Security" pick-up truck is old and costly. The replacement should be an all-electric vehicle (Zenn or Zap brand, for example). These "city cars" cost as little as $10K new, require almost no maintenance, and drive 50 miles for pennies. Upside: frees up one parking spot for students as the car will need to be plugged in when parked (probably back by maintenance). Downside: security will be a li'l cold when driving the campus in wintertime.
  2. Consider replacement of other vehicles with electric-powered ones as well. Of course, no electric vehicle has the power to do the heavy maintenance work--but a "city car" could run some local errands, for example.
  3. Why issue new "staff" parking stickers every year? Let us use the old ones until our supply is exhausted. (Students, of course, will still need new ones every fall.)
  4. Course syllabi are beginning to rival textbooks in size and scope. Let's keep all the documents we currently use, but reduce the paper consumption by: (a) providing syllabus part I only online (2) giving all students paper copies only of the following part II sections: contact information, course calendar, assignments, grading, and required texts and manuals (3) putting all policy statements and other material online; in the case of the disability policy that seems to be a legal mandate, print it on all student's course schedules at time of enrollment instead of requiring it on all printed syllabi. There--we've just saved reams of paper, with the environmentally-friendly upside.
  5. Speaking of textbooks, our bookstore should be tasked with developing a book rental program ASAP. Students' costs would be cut, and we'd potentially increase store revenues by competing with online resellers.


The Conservative Commuter said...

1) Develop guidelines by course or department in regards to IT utilization.

Every instructor using different software gobbles up resources and could easily be streamlined without hampering academic learning.

2) Use the money saved to add course sections so that students will actually be able to find the classes they want instead of having to go to Sinclair.

Boom, more revenue.

TR said...

Oh, and here's another:

The trustees should do a cold analysis of the economics of early retirement options, and create such a program if it would help stabilize the college's finances.

TR said...

Great idea, commuter!

Along the IT lines, figure out who can transition to open-source software without loss. For example, most of us could get by fine (I think) with OpenOffice instead of MS Office; fewer licenses means savings.

Janice said...

We see students printing out reams of powerpoint presentations on printers that only print one-sided and until we coach them/enlighten them/remind them that multiple slides can be on a page, one class of students can easily use up a case of paper, not to mention the cost of the printer cartridges. If instructors are suggesting that students have the powerpoints in hand for notetaking, can we start printing them up in quantity and sell at the bookstore as note packets? While it isn't cheaper from the student standpoint, it really is more cost effective and environmentally friendly to have them already printed two-sided and printed on equipment designed to do so instead of running them through the classroom or library printers (of course not printing them out at all is the most environmentally friendly).

TR said...

Janice, my own approach to that is to try to put my ppts on Blackboard. That way the students may access them. As for having ppt printouts for students' note-taking--that rather excuses students from learning how to sort out important information and take their notes in a logical order, doesn't it?

No one of importance said...

We might be able to save resources (and money) if our student IDs had a magnetic strip on them which would contain their bursar information, library account, and allow students to use it as a debit card in the cafeteria, at printers, and copiers. I know Wright State and Miami do that, but that's the extent of my knowledge. Students would be charged per print out, and it would require some sort of consolidation of software (or new software all together). It seems that we're running several systems students and faculty have to navigate rather than one all inclusive system. I don't believe it provides much cost savings up front, but I think being more user friendly can pay off in the long run.

Leslie said...

I'm aware that at Duke University and Carnegie Mellon University (which has a very extensive planet-friendly green plan) that there are no printers in the computer classrooms. Students have to use printers/copiers in the library or open computer labs with their debit cards. Instructors must use the large centrally-located copier machines for their printing. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary waste, cost, and IT Maintenance.

Janice said...

Powerpoints in Blackboard are the problem -- students want to print out every powerpoint that is there.

TR said...

The big picture with printouts-xeroxes-etc. is that Edison has no "big picture" approach to paper consumption. I'm aware of only one attempt to rein in consumption; Loleta Collins' scrap paper drive. If we reduce consumption at the source (perhaps by charging students for printing/discouraging faculty from over-publishing) we'd cut costs. I'm also aware that some public schools and nonprofits get revenues from paper recycling--something consistent with greening the campus.

Steveskid said...

I don't want to diminish any of these efforts. But they seem to me to be chicken feed compared to what a full-time faculty could do if unleashed to do more with less. This of course would mean having most teach a normal load (to have the time to research, develop, plan, and meet with colleagues for input), and to have administrators interested in both access and quality. Sharon Robinson, years ago, was a model for this when the English department went to computer aided instruction. She asked what the department thought, asked one to choose a word processing program, and then, for the most part, left the department alone. Of course she checked up on what was happening, and offered help, but she did not have an agenda. Over the years, we went from teaching a few sections late in the afternoon (when the computer room was free) to having all sections of Comp taught on networked computers. Don't you think we could, without overworking the faculty, find ways to use what we have to teach more students, and teach them well? I certainly do.
And don't you think that if such an effort was mandated and controlled by the administration it would be a costly failure?

RunningBear said...

Do away with "security" as it is presently employed. I don't care where people park. And when some nut comes in with a gun, the only thing that's going to stop him is A) running like hell, or B) someone else with a GUN!!!!

truddick said...

In this week's Chronicle of Higher Education: more and more campuses are saving money by using free email services from Google or MS as the official email for students--and in some cases, faculty and administration.

The article points out that some think there's exposure to legal proceedings if the email isn't controlled by the campus. But campuses have proven rather lightweight in protecting confidential information, unlike the free services.