The Ohio state auditor’s office gave Ohio State a list of recommendations to further increase its efficiency in administrative costs. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

An audit by the Ohio state auditor’s office gave Ohio State a list of recommendations to further increase its efficiency in administrative costs, including four that could save the university roughly $6 million.

State auditor Dave Yost’s office said the university could save $6,438,700 by moving servers off-campus, consolidating printers and copiers, centralizing hiring processes and purchase-card transactions, and improving the background-checks process.

Ohio State volunteered to be the first higher education institution to be audited after a law was passed in 2016 made such audits applicable to the requirement that the state auditor review four state institutions every year.

Before listing recommendations for improvement, the report noted Ohio State’s success in saving money and passing it on in the way of tuition assistance.

“To date, the University reports that it has already surpassed the 2020 Vision goals for increased financial aid and new resource generation ” the report said. “At the same time, [University] President [Michael] Drake led the establishment of the ‘Ohio State Tuition Guarantee,’ which included freezing tuition, mandatory fees, housing and dining for four years for incoming, in-state freshmen. For existing in-state students, tuition has been frozen since FY 2011-12.”

The report estimated that the university could save $2,382,700 by moving servers that are currently maintained in on-campus server rooms to an off-campus data center like the State of Ohio Computer Center.

The report said the main cost-saving measure of using a center like SOCC is that the rent covers physical infrastructure that is expensive to maintain on campus. Those features include “temperature condition, instantaneous backup power via SOCC UPS, backup power generation with SOCC generators, controlled-access security, fire suppression, and rack hardware,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the report estimates that consolidating hiring processes and purchase-card transactions can save the university $3,280,700.

The report said the university’s vast decentralized nature can cause inefficiencies in the hiring process, but noted the university is already engaged in efforts to centralize the process with a system called Workday, a “cloud-based enterprise-wide” IT system.

“The transition to a unified system is also expected to greatly enhance the University’s business intelligence, analytics, and reporting, ultimately providing University leadership with quality information to guide decision-making,” the report said.

The report reached a similar conclusion for the “PCard” process, which is the process by which departments at the university are approved and reimbursed for purchases using purchase-cards for expenses such as travel.

“Currently, OSU’s PCard transaction approval and travel reimbursement payment processes are carried out in a manner that varies from area to area,” the report said. “The variation is largely a product of the University’s decentralized organizational structure and lack of a singular approach.”

In the same vein, the audit suggested consolidating background checks and making them more efficient with measures such as not using background checks for internal hires and only running background checks on finalists for a job as opposed to all applicants.

The report estimated that moving toward a more centralized process for backgrounds checks can save the university $90,600.

“OSU should seek to improve background checks operational efficiency and effectiveness by combining all background check personnel into a single team,” the report said.

Finally, the report estimated the university can save $684,700 by making its printing operation more efficient.

The report notes that the university has a contract with UniPrint that makes per-page cost of printing cheaper, but that not all printers are “on-program” and that even printers on the program could be more cost efficient if printers were replaced with copiers that provide printing along with other functions.

“On-program copiers and printers offer a number of advantages over the off-program alternatives, especially in terms of the costs per page and level of customer service
associated with the UniPrint contract,” the report said. “The university should consider reducing the total number of underutilized copiers and also reducing the number of on-program printers and off-program printers. Shifting pages to fully utilize on-program copier leases will allow for higher volume, lower cost printing.”

The university supported the findings of the report in a press release on Tuesday.

“We welcome this report, which supports Ohio State’s focus on operational excellence and resource stewardship,” said Michael Papadakis, Ohio State’s interim senior vice president for business and finance and chief financial officer, in a press release. “This report will contribute to our ongoing efficiency work.”