Budget Discussions

In November 2010, President Khator asked the Faculty and Staff to engage in a conversation on two questions:
  • Do you have a good idea about how the university (a) can cut costs, (b) generate additional revenue, or (c) become more efficient? If so, please share your ideas with me via email. I will ensure that every reasonable idea is given serious consideration during the budget planning/reduction process.
  • With a reduced budget, it will become more important than ever that we avoid redundancy and work more efficiently. Have you encountered any practice or requirement in the university (at department, college or university level) that makes no sense to you or it seems redundant/unnecessary?

Here are ideas and comments submitted to date.

Please send additional comments to president@uh.edu. Please note that your suggestions will be posted anonymously on this site, and unfortunately, we are not able to provide responses to each individual email. Comments may be edited for length or clarity, but President Khator will see all your email suggestions in their entirety.  Not all comments are guaranteed to be posted.

Thank you for being a part of the conversation.

Cost-Saving Ideas

  • The University of Houston owns Bayou Oaks, but pays approximately $250,000 a year to American Campus to run it. There would be considerable savings if UH Residential Life & Housing took over management. Though some money would be needed to hire additional staff, some of it could be used to enhance RLH programming, including support for transfer students, a sophomore year residential experience program or living/learning programs. Other advantages include: greater flexibility to shift residents and populations if necessary; the ability to offer programming more in tune with the university's academic mission; the ability to ensure that repairs are consistently made and that IT, cable and telephone services are consistent; and the ability to establish fees, rules and policies consistent with the rest of RLH housing.
  • Explore alternate solutions to getting new campus housing projects built. For example, the university could approach Habitat for Humanity to see if they would be willing to partner with UH to build a family housing project. Some Habitat for Humanity affiliates have taken on multi-family dwellings. This could be helpful to the great many students with children, especially single parents, who are struggling financially and are in great need of affordable housing. If UH students, faculty and staff helped by volunteering for this project and providing the "sweat equity," it could turn into a model community collaboration.
  • Turn off the Robertson Stadium sign and scoreboard when it is not in use. Make sure the practice lights for the fields around Hofheinz are off unless they are in use. Turn off the electronic billboard in front of Hofheinz.

Revenue-Generating Ideas

 

  • Change policy to rent Bayou Oaks townhouses to Greek organizations, not to individual members of the Greek organizations. Currently, the townhouses are dedicated to particular fraternities or sororities, but the beds are rented to individuals. If the organization does not have enough members wanting to stay in the house, the extra beds remain empty. (Placing non-members in the beds has been unsuccessful because they are either ostracized by group members, or are pressured to join the sorority or fraternity.) The Greek houses have no incentive to fill the beds, because residents pay the same whether the townhouse is full or only partially occupied. Currently, Bayou Oaks townhouses are only 78.7 percent full, and we lost money on the empty beds. (In contrast, Bayou Oaks Residence Hall is 98.9 percent full.) If Greek organizations decline to rent the townhouse, RLH can take it over and use it for other special interest housing, such as language houses, an international house or STEM program house.
  • Explore the possibility of raising revenue by creating a ".com" website attached to the university's website and selling advertising on it. Other universities have done this. They don't accept all advertising – the advertisers must provide a service to the students and generate some income to the university.
  • Reduce the need for parking and classroom space by widely expanding our online course offerings. Aim to develop degree plans (especially master's level work) that can be completed entirely online, so UH can compete against the for-profit schools that offer the same.

Ideas for Greater Efficiency

 

  • Take UH e-mail off of Exchange and the antiquated mail.uh.edu (which is constantly bombarded by spam attacks) and move it all into Google Apps for Education. This would free up some of UH's IT resources to tackle big problems that affect students and faculty daily, such as streamlining and enhancing PeopleSoft and Blackboard. The apps offer several tools for communication and collaboration that can supercharge student-professor and peer interaction.
  • Reduce the academic overlap between Graphic Communication (School of Art), Graphic Communication (College of Technology) and Communication/Media Production (School of Communication) by developing a hybrid degree that shares courses in technical skill development.
  • Promote telecommuting. Faculty and staff who have extramural funding to support telecommuting, community projects or other activities that keep them out of their offices at least one day a week, should be allowed to pay for telecommuting devices and support from their grant funding. This was cut in 2010 as a cost savings measure, but it does not save the university any money because these funds are paid for by grants.

Let's Drop This Practice

 

  • Make more frequent custodial visits to the restrooms to replenish paper towels and toilet paper and turn off water. Making one visit and stocking up leads to lots of waste – water faucets are left running frequently, and students tend to scatter extra toilet paper and towels all over the place.
  • Implement and maintain an effective post tenure review. Faculty who are not productive should have their pay reduced, or be allowed to retire early.
  • This idea is regarding the business process for students who have attended UH previously as an undergraduate and wish to return as graduate students. UH requires that the students submit an official transcript to show the courses they completed here. UH has the students' records. The transcript is $10 per copy. Some graduate departments require more than one copy. I feel it would elevate the customer service experience with our alumni if we could look at the records in our system. No printing of the transcript using the very expensive transcript paper would be required. We could GO GREEN in this respect. Students feel the current process is ridiculous since the records are here at UH.