Bold innovations during summer term produce savings at Fort Hays State University

The skeptics grumbled that a bold experiment launched in the summer term at Fort Hays State University would not produce any appreciable savings and might even hurt the university's bottom line by driving down enrollment.

The skeptics were wrong.


Dr. Edward H. Hammond, FHSU president, said today that the results were in and the budget-driven changes were clearly a success.

"We were faced with a budget in the new fiscal year, beginning July 1, that would be reduced by 14 percent from the previous year. In response, we moved to a four-day summer workweek, which allowed us to shut down air conditioning in most campus buildings on Fridays in addition to Saturdays and Sundays. We raised thermostats from the previous summer settings that averaged 70 to 72 degrees up to an average temperature of 76 to 78 degrees. And, the faculty and staff made a concerted effort to turn off lights and shut down equipment that was not in use," the president said. "As a result, our consumption of electricity decreased by more than 27 percent in June compared to our average usage over the previous three years. The savings continued during July, with a 25-percent reduction in electricity consumption."

The president said the savings from June and July totaled about $53,000, with additional savings of about $25,000 expected again in August.

In addition to the changed work schedule, in which university employees worked 10-hour days Mondays through Thursdays, the university converted all but about 30 essential on-campus classes into Virtual College classes.

"Our critics assumed we would shoot ourselves in the foot by driving away potential students," President Hammond said. "That did not happen. While it's true we had a slight decrease in headcount -- from 3,457 students in the summer of 2008 to 3,450 students this summer -- the total hours we taught this summer increased substantially. We delivered 16,399 credit hours this summer, an increase of 413 hours, from the 15,986 delivered last year. That meant a revenue increase of about $69,000."

With such sweeping changes it is not possible to itemize every result, but an approximate list would include:

· $75,000 to $80,000 in energy savings over the full summer (and some of those savings will continue into the fall semester);

· $69,000 in tuition and fees from the increase in enrollment, plus perhaps another $50,000 in reduced costs as a result of the transition to mostly Virtual College courses;

· About $100,000 in savings by closing down the Student Health Center during the summer, when few students were on campus; and

· About $50,000 in savings by reducing a few 12-month positions to 9-month positions. 

President Hammond called a special meeting of his cabinet last Wednesday to review the success of the summer changes and to decide what to do next.

"We knew all along that we would return to a five-day workweek in the fall," he said. "There was a clear consensus at Cabinet, though, that we should continue to keep thermostats higher through the remainder of the air conditioning season and then reduce thermostats to about 70 degrees when the heating season begins, which is down from about 72 degrees in previous winters. Also, we will call upon everyone to continue their vigilance in saving energy by turning off lights, computers and other equipment when not being used."

He said decisions about the work schedule and other potential changes for the 2010 summer term would be addressed later.


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