Skip to: Menu | Content | Footer

20 Innovative Ways Colleges Are Saving Money

Posted on Tuesday August 9, 2011 by Staff Writers

Tuition rates at colleges and universities are skyrocketing these days. In fact, students around the world have taken to the streets to protest tuition hikes. Clearly, colleges need to find ways to cut back, and after the obvious cuts are made, what’s left? Several colleges have answered this question with innovative ideas that save money, and often have added benefits including student experience and reducing environmental waste. Read on to find out about 20 great programs that colleges have implemented to save money in innovative ways.

  1. Cutting land lines

    At the University of Washington, they’re cutting their land lines. The school discovered that land lines just weren’t necessary for the communications department (an appropriate department for the cut, we think). Although they kept common area land lines as well as lines for staff, department faculty no longer have their own phones, saving about $1,100 each month, and eliminating the department’s biggest line item.

  2. Going trayless

    Cafeteria trays lend a festive, institutional flair to school eateries, but many campuses are ditching them altogether and seeing a huge savings. Williams College has cut trays, and estimates a water savings of 14,000 gallons. And although food costs are rising, Rochester Institute of Technology has a 10% lower food bill, attributed to reduced food waste since eliminating trays. An added bonus of going trayless? Students are less likely to pack on the "freshman 15" once they have to choose food carefully instead of loading up.

  3. Retrofitting lighting

    At Arizona State University, the school took on a major project to retrofit interior and exterior lighting, improving lighting quality and reducing the energy demand of the lighting fixtures. There were 10,214 fixtures retrofitted over six months and 300 acres. Although an involved undertaking, it proved to be useful. The effort saved more than 1 million kilowatt hours, with a savings of $100,000 each year for the school.

  4. Rhodes hires students for professional staff positions

    College jobs are great for students, and can provide excellent experience that will serve them when it’s time to graduate and move out into the career field. Colleges can also benefit from student work, and Rhodes College has created a program that serves both student and college by hiring students to work in professional staff positions. In addition to improving the resumes of the 25 students in staff positions, the college has saved $725,000 per year by hiring them.

  5. Dirty windows, dingy sidewalks

    Power washing eats up a huge amount of money at Pitzer College. The college used to power wash its sidewalks and windows two times a year, but now does it just once, saving the college $80,000 annually. We’re betting that no one even picked up on the difference of a little bit more dirt on the sidewalks, but $80,000 is certainly worth noticing.

  1. WooCorps

    During a time when many students struggled financially, the College of Wooster seized the opportunity to help students as well as the campus. They offered minimum wage summer jobs to students who completed projects that benefited the college, specifically, maintenance projects including painting rooms, landscaping, and planting a garden. The college saved money on labor, and students earned cash over the summer, plus an extra $1,000 scholarship for those who logged a specified amount of hours.

  2. A cooler breakfast option

    At Harvard, weekday hot breakfast options have been almost completely eliminated in response to a lower board rate paid by students. The changes were made to breakfast in particular because only 30% of students ate breakfast, and even then, many didn’t eat the prepared items. Some prepared breakfast is still served, but those items that were often not eaten have been cut, saving the school almost a million dollars a year — $900,000 to be exact. But this change doesn’t come without its price: student athletes who enjoyed eating breakfast after morning practices worry that nutrition will suffer, possibly impacting their performance on the field (and in the water.)

  3. An energy saving contest

    This one reminds us of the "silent game," in which weary parents and caregivers encourage children to see who can be quiet the longest. But nonetheless, the silent game and this contest worked. Susquehanna University ran a contest to see which dorm could reduce its energy costs the most. Students turned off lights, unplugged printers, and paid attention to the energy they used, resulting in nearly $3,000 saved. As an incentive, the university returned 25% of the savings to the dorms to use for pizza parties and fun programs.

  4. No more free laundry

    Free laundry service is something few students take for granted as quarters add up, and trips home to wash clothes may be few and far between. But quarters add up for universities, too, in the form on water, energy, and maintenance, and Dickinson College has put a stop to this expense. Students at the college now have to pay for laundry, presumably cutting waste, and definitely cutting costs. The college now saves $150,000 each year by not providing this free service.

  5. Cutting the paper trail

    In our time of technological advances, email, and the Internet, it’s not hard to imagine a paperless college campus. Many schools are working to cut paper out as much as possible, and saving lots of money in the process. Boston University created a campaign for direct deposit paychecks. By switching employees and student workers to electronic pay stubs, the university saved $5,000 on paper alone. If all employees chose direct deposit, the University could save about $50,000 each year.

  1. Chill out

    At Davidson College in North Carolina, the college turns down the thermostat to save money on heating. It’s a cost cutting program that saves money for the college, but also helps sustainability, saving energy in addition to cash. On top of the immediate savings, promoting the practice of turning down the thermostat teaches students how to save money, and the world.

  2. Taking over vacant space

    The depressed retail market and overcrowded colleges have proven to be a match made in heaven for college savings. St. Louis Community College bought an abandoned Circuit City next to the college’s Florissant Valley campus, expanding the college’s footprint in an affordable way. The purchase and renovation adds up to about $100 per square foot, while building a new structure from scratch would have been $300 a square foot. At 32,000 square feet of space, that’s a savings of more than $6 million.

  3. Low flow shower heads

    Water usage for showers represents hundreds of thousands of gallons annually, as well as huge amounts of natural gas, so cutting down on the amount used can have a great impact on finances and conservation. At Oberlin College, the Green EDGE fund replaced 30 inefficient shower heads in Dascomb Hall with new, efficient ones. The project cost $900, but at a savings of $866 per year, it should pay itself back and then some in less than two years by conservative estimates.

  4. No more football

    It’s a drastic measure, but one that will yield high results: Western Washington University shut down its football program after 98 seasons. With rising operational costs as well as state budget cuts, the University cut the team to save about $485,000 over the next few years. Most college football fans would shudder to think it, but many universities would do well to cut their football. In recent years, nearly all colleges have lost money on football programs. In fact, in 2006, only 19 of 119 studied had positive net revenues.

  5. Student-made granola

    Students at Middlebury College love to eat granola, but the college became concerned about the rising price of granola from a local supplier. Instead of dealing with the higher price, executive chef Bo Cleveland came up with the bright idea to get students to make it instead. The "Granola Gang" works to create granola for the campus, saving $27,000 each year.

  1. Energy Star software at Harvard

    At the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, Energy Star software conserves energy on their computers. Monitors go into sleep mode during periods of inactivity, saving energy and cash. With this new energy savings, the university has cut over $14,000 from its energy bills each year.

  2. Let them eat shrimp

    At Carleton College, annual faculty parties celebrating the first day of classes have been known for their heaping trays of jumbo shrimp. But now, they’ve been scaled back, cutting both shrimp and wine to save $3,800. The school has moved to a new service provider that instead uses cheaper, locally-sourced foods that allow Carleton to save money and promote sustainability at the same time.

  3. Hitting the auction block

    Many colleges are selling their surplus goods online, typically on eBay. This means freeing up storage space for the university, which often costs money to own, maintain, and keep climate controlled. It also means bringing in revenue. The University of Wisconsin in particular created its own auction site, and it brought in $280,000 in its first year.

  4. Fueling university cars with university oil

    Cooking oil is a huge mess, as well as a huge waste at university eateries. At the same time, fuel for university cars is a rising cost. University of Washington engineering students came up with the bright idea to marry these two problems, turning university cars into biodiesel vehicles so that they can run on cooking oil that would have otherwise gone to waste. This saves the campus money on oil disposal, as well as fuel for university cars.

  5. Upgrading supercomputers

    SUNY University at Buffalo saved money by buying more. Although typically, cutting-edge science and major technological purchases mean spending more, Buffalo shopped smart, buying new energy efficient servers for the Center for Computational Research. These new servers replaced 25% of the center’s old servers, saving energy with their lower power and cooling requirements. The move boosted the center’s capacity by 7 teraflops, while at the same time saving the university approximately $150,000 per year.