Outside analysis shows University of Minnesota competitive on administrative spending

An external review of the University of Minnesota’s administrative costs showed the University to be around the median of its peers in almost all measures, and in some cases among the leaders in a wide variety of categories related to investment in mission-focused activities and staff.

During its Thursday meeting, the Board of Regents Finance and Operations Committee reviewed the results of the review conducted by Huron Consulting. The analysis compared University data to that of more than 30 peers in the Big Ten and across the country.

"We welcome expert outside perspective on our administrative spending and headcount to help us honor our commitment to prudently steward our resources. We’re encouraged to see where we are in line with peer universities, where we are emerging as a leader, and where we can improve. We can and will do more work to reduce our administrative spending, but our systemwide commitment to invest in our mission has clearly made a difference," said University President Joan Gabel. "I want to express my deep appreciation for our people, because one thing these data show is that our people are being asked to do a lot, and they’re getting that work done in many different ways, in every function of what we do. We can’t serve our students and our state without them."

Huron’s report showed the proportion of University employees directly supporting its mission compared favorably to other leading research institutions. In fact, the University had the third-highest ranking in its peer group in this category, a reflection of strategic decisions to increase investment in direct mission support.

Similarly, data showed the University had a lower proportion of its workforce focused on administrative support and management than many of its peers. The report noted this could reflect University hiring and staff development practices, which have realized more efficiencies and reduced the amount of staff needed to continue handling the University’s administrative work.

The review also considered costs, noting that the University’s support expenditures all fell within the range of its peer group. University spending on academic support and student services appeared above the peer median, with student services increasing the fastest. Spending in these areas reflect strategic investments by the University that may not be directly attributable to mission activities, but that support overall student experience, academic success and wellness. Trends identified during this analysis indicate that the University is continuing to find ways to reduce overhead cost in these areas.

Thursday’s report was the latest in an ongoing conversation in which Regents and Gabel have explored benchmarking and how data comparisons may be used to enhance the University’s operational effectiveness.

The Board also:

  • Approved the merger of the College of Liberal Arts and School of Fine Arts on the Duluth campus, a budget-balancing proposal from campus administrators to identify $5.2 million in recurring funding reductions. The reductions help address an annual budget imbalance and a required systemwide reduction, while minimizing impact to students and preserving academic programs and student support as much as possible.
  • Reviewed preliminary draft recommendations on Board policy related to building namings in a discussion with President Gabel that is part of an ongoing effort to more clearly define the University’s approach. The Board plans to revisit this topic for possible action in the spring.
  • Approved a resolution related to the East Gateway project, specifically endorsing the concept plan, authorizing a memorandum of agreement with the University of Minnesota Foundation regarding governance for the project, and advancing a land transfer agreement between the two organizations.
  • Discussed data from a systemwide environmental scan of University student mental health resources and support, a review which found individual units and colleges continue to make significant efforts to invest in student mental health support, but that the University could be more efficient by centralizing and scaling some efforts.
  • Reviewed a proposed sale of KUMD-FM in Duluth to the Duluth-Superior Area Educational Television Corporation.
  • Approved collective bargaining agreements with several American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) units, representing a variety of clerical, health care, and technical employees.
  • Approved employment agreements for Gopher Athletics Director Mark Coyle and Gopher Head Women’s Basketball Coach Lindsay Whalen, among others.

The Board of Regents will meet next on March 13, 2020. Visit regents.umn.edu for more information.

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