Consulting firm to look for higher education costs savings

The State Board of Education has hired a consulting firm to seek efficiencies and cost savings in Idaho’s higher education system, thereby implementing one of Gov. Butch Otter’s final education initiatives.

Consultants from Huron, a Chicago-based firm, will visit campuses looking for ways to consolidate services and decrease costs, according to a State Board news release.

Andrew Scoggin

“Our intent would be to reinvest savings identified from this third-party analysis to directly benefit students by reducing costs and enhancing our educational delivery systems to make higher education more accessible to all Idahoans,” State Board member Andrew Scoggin said in a written statement.

Integrating services and ferreting out cost savings was one of the recommendations issued last year by Otter’s higher education task force. Upending the status quo of higher education was also a major plank in Otter’s final State of the State address in January.

Initially, Otter called for creating a new systemwide chief education officer to consolidate operations. During his January State of the State address, Otter said dramatic changes are needed in order for the state to reach its “moonshot goal” of having 60 percent of Idaho’s young adults hold a postsecondary degree or certificate by 2025.

Eventually, the Legislature approved a $250,000 funding request to hire a consulting firm to seek out efficiencies. Huron’s contract is valued at $250,000, according to the contract purchase order.

Huron’s consultants are expected to get to work immediately in Idaho.  The firm is scheduled to present a report outlining its finding to the State Board in December. If the State Board adopts Huron’s recommendations, the next step will be to determine if the State Board can make the changes through Board policy, or if the Legislature will need to take action during the 2019 legislative session, which convenes in January.

“(Huron) will undertake an overall macro-level review of our state’s higher education system and provide an in-depth analysis on how we can more efficiently and effectively deliver higher education to Idahoans,” Scoggin said in a written statement. “The analysis will include an intensive review of all back-office functions to determine which functions can be delivered at lower cost and higher quality by consolidating services currently being managed separately at each college and university.”

Huron won the contract as part of a competitive request for proposals (RFP) process, according to the State Board. Six different firms submitted proposals, and the State Division of Purchasing handled the process, including evaluating the proposals.

After three terms as governor totaling 12 years in office, Otter is retiring at the end of this year. Republican Lt. Gov. Brad Little and Democratic nominee Paulette Jordan are squaring off in November’s general election, with the winner succeeding Otter.

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