In the spring of 2009, Princeton University’s provost, executive vice president, vice president for finance and treasurer, vice president for human resources, and members of their staffs came together as the Cost Savings Working Group (CSWG) to monitor the effects of the financial crisis, prepare for its impact on the University budget, and to review and pre-approve for the Priorities Committee and Board of Trustees the departmental and central budget reduction plans to meet the University’s $170 million budget savings goal.
Addressing cost-savings goals focused the University on the ways it does business, and resulted in a number of areas actually growing stronger from the budget-cutting exercise. Consequently, instead of disbanding the CSWG following the attainment of the $170 million goal, the same group of individuals has continued to meet regularly to support initiatives that will Strengthen University Management and Resources (SUMAR).
While cost savings continue to be a goal for SUMAR, the committee also puts a premium on administrative efficiencies, strengthening operations, and enhancing management practices, which often cannot be translated into direct dollar savings. The activities of today’s SUMAR are possible due to the sophistication, expertise, and collaborative style of Princeton’s staff found at every level of the organization.
SUMAR began tracking central and departmental savings in 2010 with more than 50 initiatives and potential savings of more than $13 million annually. It continues to track legacy cost savings and evergreen initiatives (e.g., controlling healthcare and energy savings) and today counts more than 77 projects with potential recurring annual savings of approximately $51.3 million. SUMAR continues to solicit ideas from the University community and provides periodic updates on successful projects through this web page and at AAMG presentations in order to encourage and support the entrepreneurial spirit that strengthens our institution.
FY22 Priority Initiatives
In FY22, SUMAR turned its focus to two select University priorities: leveraging and building on staff redeployment initiatives surfaced in the University's response to COVID-19, and supporting racial equity initiatives.
Beginning in May 2020, the University pursued a redeployment initiative to enable units to shift short-term projects from staff who may have felt overburdened by the campus response to COVID-19 to staff who may have had less to do as a result of the reduction in on-campus activity. The redeployment initiative was coordinated by the Office of the Executive Vice President in partnership with the Office of the Provost and the Office of Human Resources and included direct outreach to all administrative and academic departments. The initiative matched available personnel with 76 proposed projects, representing over 11,000 hours of redeployed staff time. SUMAR asked a working group to consider how the learnings from this initiative could be incorporated into a program that would continue to broaden employee exposure in support of professional development.
In FY2021, following a call from President Christopher L. Eisgruber to support racial equity through an examination of the University's operations, the procurement department developed a multi-year action plan to enhance our efforts around supplier diversity. An important part of this enhancement included financial activities that fall outside the scope of traditional procurement, such as financial and related professional services.
FY21 and FY20 Priority Initiatives
SUMAR's priority initiatives in FY21 included the University's response to COVID-19 and the following initiatives from FY20:
In April 2018, Princeton faculty voted to adopt calendar reform, which moved fall-semester final exams from January to December and moved the start and end dates of spring semester one week earlier. This reform also allows for a formal “Wintersession,” a flexible two-week window in January for research, experiential learning, and extracurricular activities. These changes, which took effect at the start of the 2020-21 academic year, had broad-ranging operational impact across both administrative and academic units. SUMAR tracked opportunities to optimize processes or systems while changes related to calendar reform were implemented. For example, enhanced collaboration, planning, and communication among Housing, Facilities, and Conference and Event Services enabled Facilities to complete required summer maintenance activities in a shorter summer without augmenting Facilities staff.
Expansion of the Student Body
President Eisgruber announced in his February 2019 annual letter that the University intends to expand the undergraduate student body by about 10% by welcoming an additional 125 undergraduates per class beginning in the fall of 2022. This timeline is dependent on the opening of Yeh College and New College West (the new residential colleges). Expansion of the student body provides an opportunity to evaluate programs, services, and systems while changes related to expansion are implemented. For more information, see the University’s strategic planning framework.
Increasing Supplier Diversity
This initiative, a continuation from FY19, centers on enhancing University management practices and intends to reflect the culture of promoting diversity and inclusion among students, faculty, and staff with third-party suppliers. In FY20, Procurement extended the success of this initiative by focusing on continued external outreach through diverse supplier advocacy organizations; pursuing greater partnership with peer institutions to identify potential diverse suppliers; and sharing improved reporting on supplier diversity engagement levels across cabinet areas in order for departments to identify unit-specific opportunities for considering diverse suppliers.
Other Evergreen Initiatives
SUMAR's priority initiatives for FY19 included continued focus on minimizing the annual rate of increase of Princeton’s healthcare costs without shifting the burden to employees; increasing the frequency with which University units’ purchases and services are competitively bid, diverse supplier participation in bids, annual expenditures with diverse suppliers, and the number of certified diverse suppliers available in the supplier portfolio; and surfacing ideas for innovative and impactful initiatives that could lead to cost savings, administrative efficiencies, strengthened operations, or enhanced management practices.
Energy and Utility Savings
Efforts continue toward the long-term goal of decreasing the University’s utility budget by implementing Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) throughout campus. An additional goal was the reduction of heating and cooling consumption on campus to meet Sustainability Plan objectives. Examples of progress toward the goal include:
- Installed high-efficiency LED lighting and motion sensors throughout campus over approximately seven million square feet
- Integrated Occupancy Sensors for lighting into HVAC control in East Pyne/Chancellor Green, Schultz and other locations on campus. These sensors reduce air conditioning to offices unoccupied during the summer months
- Automated HVAC control systems optimization software installed in a total of 68 buildings. This software monitors system problems for necessary repairs
- Upgraded controls and lighting in Carl Icahn Labs, Lewis Thomas Lab, and Bowen Hall
- Projects completed in the central plant included the installation of new burner controls, a heat exchanger to use wintertime air to cool water, new controls on the large natural gas compressor, and the remaining plant energy conservation projects.
The procurement department is making progress on increasing the frequency with which University units’ purchases and services are competitively bid, diverse supplier participation in bids, annual expenditures with diverse suppliers, and the number of certified diverse suppliers available in the supplier portfolio. As a result of procurement’s efforts, the University increased the overall percentage of expenditures with certified diverse suppliers from 1.8% in FY17 to 10% in FY19. The percentage of certified diverse suppliers who participate in procurement events also increased from 10% in FY17 to 40% in FY19. These figures include existing suppliers who were identified as diverse during the certification process.
In addition, Procurement Services continues to transition from a transaction-focused organization to providing more comprehensive and strategic support for the University’s procurement needs. Recent initiatives include:
- Credit Card Program: Engaged a new banking partner and programs; increased annual cash rebate to $1.65 million from $100,000
- University Travel Program: Secured a new travel agency and service model; achieved annual savings of $1.55 million
- Temporary Staffing: Employed various strategies to reduce cost by 22% and increase compliance; achieved annual savings of $1.3 million
- Office Supplies: Enhanced services and sustainability; reduced cost by 30% and achieved annual savings of $425,000
- University Copier Program: Replaced over 200 campus devices and reduced the cost per print by 40%; achieved annual savings of $220,000
Single-occupancy Vehicle Reduction
The Revise Your Ride program, which aims to decrease the number of single-occupancy vehicles parking on campus each day, has issued 720 fewer permits to date, the equivalent of $9.8 million in surface lot spaces or $25.2 million in garage spaces. Over 3,000 members of the University community now participate in alternative transportation programs, including car shares and bike shares.
Financial Shared Services
Financial Shared Services provides financial management and transaction support to 32 academic and administrative departments across Princeton’s campus. Departments that join Financial Shared Services are partnered with an assistant manager who serves as the contact for all financial-related activities and questions. Shared Services, which oversees 21,000 financial transactions per year, employs standardized processes and specialized training related to purchasing, payments, expense reporting, journal entries, and financial reporting, allowing for more effective and efficient operations across the University.