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Membership and Community
Membership and Community

Cost Reduction Strategies

The Comprehensive and Doctoral Institutions Council established this web page to share cost-saving ideas. Not every idea will work for all institutions. Evaluate any strategy thoroughly before adopting. If you have an idea to share, please contact us.

Information Technology

  • Dim the brightness of computer monitors.
  • Keep PCs a year longer before replacing them.
  • Share training on administrative software with similar institutions.
  • Use a third party for hosting your server, which could save a staff position.
  • Switch to virtual servers.

Education and Research

  • Increase general faculty workload.
  • Require every administrator with a master's or doctoral degree to teach a course.
  • Increase productivity by increasing class size.
  • Suspend or close: all undergraduate minors; graduate and undergraduate special-emphasis programs; up to 25 percent of all undergraduate majors; nonprofessional master's/doctoral programs that are not signature programs or not ranked among the top 50 in the nation.
  • Focus on online education.
  • Examine decentralized and specialized student affairs programs.
  • Scrutinize faculty space allocation.
  • Examine academic programs with small participation.
  • Review all centers and institutes. Demonstrate they are serving the university's core mission.


  • Ask the president to forgo a salary increase; ask the president and other top administrators to take a salary cut.
  • Reward performance with one-time bonus $ instead of increase to base salary.
  • Reduce retirement plan contributions (zero effect on salaries).
  • Offer employees temporary or partial leave without pay but with full benefits.
  • Pool support staff members in clusters of four and five departments.
  • Consolidate common functions that have become dispersed (e.g., advancement activities).
  • Shut down between Christmas and New Year's Day to save utilities. Ask employees to either take leave or comp time.
  • Implement 4-day week with extended daily hours for summer, and operate only required buildings on Fridays (dining halls, residence halls, health center, etc.). This helps to provide longer hours to customers on the open days, enables custodial staff to only clean offices 4 times per week and use extra hours to 'deep clean' things they normally don't have time to do. Grounds crew splits the four days, with some working M-Th and others Tu-Fri so that work gets done to support camps and conferences on regular time instead of overtime. Improves morale as well as cost savings.
  • Conduct a mission-activity-end product analysis to closely examine how each staff person's work contributes to the institution's mission (see Streamlining the System, Administratively Speaking).
  • Defer state approved salary increases for nine months.
  • Budget for zero new positions, zero departmental budget increases.
  • Closely examine all vacancies before filling.
  • Freeze hiring of temporary employees, consultants and independent contractors.
  • Consider voluntary retirement incentive plans.
  • Reduce travel.
  • Freeze salary levels for administrators making more than $150,000, while giving modest raises to staff on the lower end of the pay scale.
  • To save jobs, reduce all salaries by a certain percentage.


  • Examine tuition remission programs for faculty and staff.
  • Examine health care benefit levels, spousal and dependent health care coverage.


  • Discontinue printing or mailing paper student registration receipts to save the paper, printing, and postage costs.
  • Collaborate with other institutions to share faculty members, facilities, registration and records functions, security, and parking.
  • Reduce debt-service payments by renegotiating long-term debt, seeking a lower interest rate, extending the term of the loan, or changing banks.
  • Require direct deposit for employee and student payroll.
  • Use purchasing cards to better track procurement.
  • Use cooperatively bid contracts to reduce spend.
  • Hold off for now on financing any new debt.
  • Ask donors to accelerate pledge payments; remember that some donors also are experiencing cash-flow problems.
  • Employ mid-year budget reductions.
  • Plan for budget cuts at 3-10% levels.
  • Sell off assets.
  • Have a weekly phone call with the chair of the board, vice chair, chair of investment, audit and financial planning committees, and the president and vice president for development to update plans.


  • Recommend computer, printer, monitor, light, and accessory item shutdowns.
  • Consider a longer winter break to save energy.
  • Add outside lighting timers and classroom light timers.
  • Eliminate excess storage facilities for food and supplies.
  • Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs.
  • Purchase energy efficient equipment when new equipment is needed.
  • Lease prime ground-floor spaces in campus buildings to retailers, professional firms, independent nonprofit organizations, and other revenue providers.
  • Increase rental revenues by encouraging local entities to use campus recreation areas, music venues, meeting rooms, etc.
  • Close and lease remote campuses and unused buildings.
  • Fill office, buildings-and-grounds, and custodial staff positions with student workers who will earn tuition credits.
  • Lock in utility contracts now for the next few years while the price of energy is significantly reduced compared to just months ago.
  • Schedule all summer classes in only two buildings to save on utilities in all other academic buildings, keep vacancies in custodial staff through the summer, and free the custodians from cleaning the closed academic buildings to work camps and conferences, which would normally have required overtime.
  • Clean buildings at night when the job can be done faster.
  • Slow construction projects. Reexamine capital projects that can be delayed or deferred.


  • Hire a certified risk manager--see Moving Risk Management to a Priority Post.
  • Negotiate with service providers for lower management fees.
  • Establish a committee to collect and review cost-saving suggestions from the university community.
  • Establish an ongoing independent campus-wide task force to find operating savings with three-year horizon.


Maryann Terrana
Director, Member Engagement