Putting cost-saving ideas into action

The university’s cost-saving suggestion box is bursting with ideas, thanks to more than 2,000 submissions that have come in from students, staff and faculty.

A committee comprising faculty and administration charged with sorting and reviewing the suggestions is now moving to the next steps: studying and putting the ideas into action when possible.

Since the suggestion box was introduced on the TUportal in mid-January, Temple staff, students and faculty have proposed a wide range of creative ideas and thoughts on how the university can save money and improve efficiency during the current economic downturn.

Debbie Hartnett, vice president of human resources, who is chairing the committee, applauded the participation and enthusiasm of Temple’s community.

“The input from students and employees across the university has been invaluable,” said Hartnett. “Many who responded also expressed their appreciation for being given the opportunity to provide input. We’re eager to get started on many of the new ideas.”

The suggestions were divided into the following categories.

  • Printing and paper
  • Vendor and other external contracts
  • Food and food services
  • Cell phones
  • Business services
  • Textbooks
  • Student/faculty issues (14 sub-categories)
  • Sustainability
  • Workplace

The committee then split into six groups to evaluate suggestions by category and make recommendations for moving forward. In the process, the group discovered that several of the suggested actions or changes were already in place, such as those related to thermostat settings in summer and winter months. The suggestions and comments also emphasized the importance of ongoing communications with respect to the suggestions, as well as progress on implementation.

Recommendations are now being shared with responsible departments so that they can be analyzed and implemented when feasible. Following is the first in a series on the suggestions and subsequent recommendations.

Many comments from students focused on the prohibitive costs of textbooks. In response to the many suggestions, the university is taking a close look at the issue. Chief among the complaints were the price of books; the fact that books changed from semester to semester; and the lack of notice needed to purchase used books.

One of the committee’s recommendations is to undertake a campaign to educate faculty on ways to help students save on textbooks. In a letter to faculty, Jay Sinha, a Fox School of Business professor who serves on the committee, suggested several steps faculty can take to control the high cost of textbooks.

“By far, the number one complaint from students coming into the online suggestion box has been about their exorbitantly high textbook prices,” wrote Sinha. “In these tough economic times while the university is looking to make savings in facilities, energy usage, and supplies, we are also mindful of the out-of-pocket expenses of our students… According to the bookstore, Temple University ranks last in the nation in faculty reorders of books — that is not a statistic that we can feel happy about.”

Sinha suggested the following steps faculty can take to help alleviate the burden of textbook prices for students:

  • File reorder forms for books as soon as possible so that students can purchase and resell used textbooks
  • Offer students the chance to use the past editions of books (if available) when there aren’t substantial changes to newer editions
  • Consider price as a criterion in selecting a textbook
  • Consider electronic versions of the instructional materials (books, cases, articles, etc.)
  • List ISBN numbers on syllabi, as required by the Higher Education Act, and post syllabi to Blackboard in sufficient time before the beginning of the semester.

“We know that many among the faculty are already sensitive to our students' costs, but we hope this will become pervasive throughout the university,” wrote Sinha.

All suggestions and recommendations from the process are being shared with the president, who has expressed gratitude for the time and interest of the employees and students who have participated.

The cost-saving suggestion box will close at the end of the semester.