University News

University identifies steps to reduce budget deficit

Plan targets IT services, vendor contracts while preserving employee benefits

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, September 10, 2015

A set of actions has been finalized to reduce the University’s $10 million structural deficit in three years, wrote Provost Richard Locke and Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Barbara Chernow ’79 in a campus-wide email Thursday.

The action plan outlined in the email came after Locke and Chernow spent the summer reviewing the Deficit Reduction Working Group’s April recommendations in conjunction with the 650 community comments submitted in response to the recommendations. Before becoming provost this July, Locke co-chaired the working group.

“The greatest concern was a fear that we would erode the (faculty and staff) benefits,” Locke said, adding that he and Chernow did “exactly the opposite” by protecting benefits.

Many community members submitted comments expressing concern about the possibility of rising health insurance deductibles, particularly for “people on the lower end of the salary scale, because our benefits aren’t just for faculty — it’s faculty and staff,” Locke said.

The original set of recommendations proposed increasing employee contributions for health insurance and temporarily freezing the Tuition Aid Program, both of which were struck from the final action plan due to community concerns voiced in online comments.

Modifications to employee benefits that will go into effect during the 2015-2016 academic year include a switch in pharmacy benefit management and an increase in office visit co-pays.

“We were able to figure out creative ways of getting our deficit reduced without actually modifying people’s benefits in a fundamental way, which is important,” Locke said.

Locke presented the final action plan at Tuesday evening’s faculty meeting and said he received a positive response.

“People really appreciate that, one, we’re addressing the deficit, which is really important for our long-term financial health, and two, I think they appreciated that we were transparent about what we were going to do and that we actually listened to the community,” Locke said.

“It’s very important that we involve the community, and with Rick’s leadership, that’s what we did,” Chernow said.

The action plan also outlines cost-cutting initiatives in reducing the Dean of the Faculty budget by granting temporary teaching funds more judiciously, consolidating information and technology services, streamlining the procurement of University goods and services like office supplies and transportation, and increasing energy efficiency on campus.

The plan explicitly states that the University will consolidate positions in IT through attrition rather than layoffs. “We want Brown to be a model employer, to treat everyone in the community really well,” Locke said.

Locke and Chernow also identified streamlining procurement as another potential way to reduce spending waste. For example, the University currently holds contracts with 70 different transportation services, so “maybe if we have fewer vendors and better terms, we can still have all the transportation we need, but we can have it at a higher quality service and a cheaper rate,” Locke said.

To conduct this auditing process, the University will hire a person for a newly created position to oversee strategic sourcing in Insurance and Purchasing Services, Chernow said. “Not only are we going to save some money, but also improve services. That’s what we were interested in doing,” she added.

All of the initiatives listed in the email are already underway, Chernow said.

“We don’t want (the changes) to be a visible hit to either academics or community,” Locke said. “We just want to be doing the things that we’ve been doing smarter.”

Topics:
  • A gift of $100 million a year to
    Brown

    We would like to
    give $100 million per year to Brown. This money could be used to offset tuition
    fees, pay professors more, and support Brown’s current budget, which is in
    deficit. We have proposed this to
    Christina Paxson and several leaders within Brown’s administration.

    We in Northern
    California have created a plan to significantly increase Brown’s
    revenues. We are students from
    before birth, and remain students until we die. Those who are fortunate
    enough to attend Brown bring their own experiences and relationships with them.
    Our proposal outlines how Brown can participate in the learning process
    for high school students, with a goal of exposing students to Brown professors
    and students, developing and reinforcing a Brown-student relationship well
    before the admissions process begins.

    The key benefits to
    Brown are:

    1. Brown can
    add $100 million in revenues by teaching AP courses.

    2. This program would
    benefit both high-income and low-income high school students, as well as local
    teachers, Brown professors and Brown students (as paid
    proctors).

    3. This gives you Brown
    to increase student acceptance
    rate (now at 60%) and improve the number of high-potential poor
    students (a key target).

    Our
    proposal outlines a plan for Brown to offer AP courses in select schools,
    starting with Northern California. These
    courses would be co-taught by the local AP teacher and Brown professor,
    assisted by Brown students acting as proctors.
    The goals of the program are:

    1. To offer the students a compelling, interesting and
    informative set of courses.

    2. To expose promising high school students to Brown professors
    and students.

    3. To give Brown visibility on promising students who may
    become good candidates to attend Brown.

    4. To support schools which may need
    teaching resources in inner-city and poorer school districts, and support their
    local efforts.

    The
    fundamental principles of this program are that (1) it must be financially
    self-supporting, (2) it offers a first-class educational experience that is
    rewarding for Brown students and professors as well as students, and (3) that
    it works in concert with local resources, with full backing of the high
    schools.

    What
    is offered

    The educational product would consist of the following:

    A set of internet lectures using
    the Khan Academy format on AP subjects, given by a professor at Brown.
    These lectures are normally watched by the students online at home
    (as homework).

    A set of exercises and questions
    which are answered by the students during class time.

    A teaching guide for the local AP
    teacher. The teacher uses this guide and assists students in class
    to answer questions and do exercises.

    Tests to be proctored by the local
    AP teacher which are submitted for grading to Brown students assisting the
    professor (Brown students are paid for this course assistance). Results
    are then shared with the AP teacher and Brown (for certification).

    If applicable, online textbooks as
    a part of the educational offering.

    Who
    will pay?

    Identify
    those who have the greatest stakes in the education of students: parents,
    teachers, guidance counselors, who are willing and able to pay. “Rich”
    schools’ parents pay for their child’s certificate. Some scholarships
    offered. “Poor” schools parents pay, but with a great deal more
    scholarship assistance.

    Where
    are the target markets?

    Around
    the world. The “freemium” model can be disseminated on YouTube and used
    by millions. The “certificate” model is also freely expandable (same
    professor, more Brown student proctors).

    How
    much effort is involved?

    A Khan
    Academy format requires very little professor time and effort. With a
    virtual “blackboard” and voiceover, the professor can video a series of
    lectures based on his/her Brown classroom offerings.

    High
    school students in the “certified” program will require support. This
    would be provided by Brown students working at the direction of a Brown
    professor. These students’ main tasks would include grading courses,
    answering teachers’ and students’ questions, and monitoring feedback.

    Scholarships

    Offer
    scholarships administered by Brown in collaboration with local guidance counselors.

    We have shared the
    entire plan, with revenues and costs, with top members of the administration at
    Brown. It is also available for public
    view at http://www.brownnext250years.wordpress.com/a-gift-of-100-million-a-year-to-brown/

    So, what’s stopping
    us? Let’s make this happen.