President McRobbie

Committed to keeping IU costs low, value high

Note: The following op-ed appeared in the Indianapolis Star on September 21, 2010.

As tough economic times continue to constrain state revenues, it is important for all institutions receiving public funds to operate as efficiently as possible. At Indiana University we understand this and have been implementing strategies in recent years to ensure that we return maximum value to Indiana taxpayers for the support they give us.

Recently there has been significant national focus on studies pointing to rapid growth in university administrative costs, particularly in comparison to dollars spent on instruction. Governor Daniels and other Hoosier public officials have raised similar concerns here in Indiana. This is a concern that I share and has been a high priority of mine to address since I became president.

One important example of this has been our recent efforts to improve graduation and completion rates without increasing administrative costs. To achieve this important goal, each IU campus designed a student support program to provide extra help and counseling. Funding for these programs, totaling $4.2 million, was obtained by trimming administrative overhead elsewhere and redirecting it to this effort.

Overall since 2007, the administrative share of Indiana University’s budget has actually decreased, from 10.5 percent to 9.1 percent. 

To achieve this, IU has implemented a hiring slow-down for administrative staff, resulting in a reduction of 225 non-faculty positions, cut the university travel budget in half, reorganized a number of departments and ordered external evaluations of several administrative functions to see if even more savings can be made.

Certainly more can be done to reduce administrative costs.  And we will continue to make the hard choices that are necessary for achieving those savings. But it is important for Hoosiers and our public officials to know that we have made important progress in this area.

These efficiencies and administrative cost-savings appear to run counter to trends in other parts of the country and have helped make IU a more affordable higher education option for Hoosiers.

In fact, data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education on its “College Navigator” website show that in-state undergraduates at IU Bloomington pay the lowest amount out-of-pocket in the Big Ten. 

The rankings show IUB’s average net price for 2008-09 was $10,367. That is how much the average in-state undergraduate actually paid—after scholarships and grants—for tuition, room, board, and living expenses.

This was almost $4,700 per year less than the average out-of-pocket cost to attend the other public Big Ten universities, saving the average Hoosier family more than $18,000 over four years compared with residents of other Big Ten states. This is a benefit that accrues to IU students across all family income levels and supports the earlier reports from Kiplinger’s magazine which ranked IU as one of America’s best college values.

I am confident that IU Bloomington will remain the best value in the Big Ten and one of the best values anywhere in the country. I can assure Hoosier families that no other university is working more aggressively to keep its programs affordable for in-state students.

Our goal at IU is to provide Hoosiers with a higher education option that is both excellent and affordable. We realize that to do this, we will need to focus on efficiency as one of our highest priorities.

All of us at Indiana University are committed to this goal.