UT efficiency plan projects $490M savings - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

UT efficiency plan projects $490M savings

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- The University of Texas could generate up to $490 million in savings and new revenue over the next decade under proposals to streamline business practices, including a possible increase in room and board for students, according to a university report released Tuesday.

Texas higher education officials are under pressure from state lawmakers to streamline efficiency and cut costs where they can, even as they press lawmakers to restore nearly $1 billion cut from higher education in the current state budget. The Legislature currently is drafting the 2014-2015 state budget.

The report unveiled by university President Bill Powers also said the school should be more aggressive in licensing research and technology.

Powers, who appointed the panel and endorsed its broad goals, said the university must still review specific ideas to see which ones it will adopt.

But Powers insisted the pursuit of better business practices should not necessarily impact the classroom. He said if Texas can save money it can spend more on its core missions of education and research, but the school won't sacrifice teaching for economics.

"Universities, real universities, are not simply businesses," Powers said. "Students aren't simply customers ... There is no interest in bringing a corporate mentality to strict business values to the classroom.

The report comes at a time Gov. Rick Perry and legislative leaders are pressuring universities to reign in tuition costs. In his State of the State speech, delivered about an hour after the school report was released, Perry renewed his call for universities to offer four-year tuition rates. Perry also wants 10 percent of university funding to be tied to graduation rates.

The report said housing, food and parking costs at the 50,000-student campus are below market, but did not say what the school should charge. According to the university, about 7,550 students have residence hall contracts which range from nearly $9,000 to about $15,600.

The report suggested Texas consider following Texas A&M University's lead in using a private contractor for some campus services. In 2012, Texas A&M hired a private company to handle campus dining, landscaping and other services, a move Texas A&M estimated would save about $260 million over 10 years.

Powers said Texas would be very cautious about moves that would raise costs on students, who have face.

"Housing and food rates are part of the cost for our students," Powers said. "So we need to be careful."

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