How Pitt Has Cut Costs

The University of Pittsburgh has made dramatic progress in its drive to ever-higher quality—in academic excellence, pathbreaking research, community outreach, and all other aspects of this major public research university—even as it has controlled its expenses by creating efficiencies, cutting costs, raising revenues from federal research grants and private fundraising, and tightening its overall budget.

For full details, see University of Pittsburgh Cost Containment Efforts report (PDF).

In addition, Pitt continues to be a primary driver of the Western Pennsylvania economy.

All this has been accomplished in spite of continuing dwindling state support—the University now receives less than 10 percent of its budget from the state versus more than 30 percent in the mid-1970s.

Pitt has done the best it could in the face of state budgets that have severely eroded the Commonwealth’s original commitment to the University since it became state-related. 

How have we accomplished so much with so little?

  • Channeled Spending Program and Strategic Purchasing: The University consolidated suppliers and negotiated better pricing and volume discounts resulting in savings of $6.6 million in fiscal year 2016.
  • Budget Cuts: The steady erosion of state support has resulted in several University budget reductions totaling $60 million over the past nine years.
  • Postretirement Medical Benefits: The University has redesigned its postretirement medical benefits program to increase eligibility requirements and cap University contributions. Cumulative savings over the past four years was over $33 million.
  • Contract Negotiation: Facilities Management purchases electricity and natural gas from various energy suppliers through pricing agreements that vary in length depending on market conditions. For electricity purchases, the market is closely monitored, and when rates are favorable, competitive pricing is obtained for various periods of time. Recently, while rates were trending downward, a five-year contract was locked in for the purchase of electricity from January 2012 through December 31, 2016. The new five-year fixed-price contract is projected to save the University $17 million when compared with the prior contract.
  • Energy Conservation: Through energy-conservation initiatives, the University achieved annual utilities savings of $3.5 million since FY 2002 and cumulative savings of more than $60 million since 1996.
  • IT and Telecommunications: Through various improvements in IT and telecommunications strategy and sourcing, the University has saved approximately $8 million over the past four years.
  • Employee Benefits: The University extended the employee vesting period for its defined contribution plan, saving $5.1 million over the past four years.
  • Electronic Reporting: Through the electronic distribution of departmental budget reports, student bills, pay checks, and other departmental reports, the University saves approximately $2 million annually through reduced paper usage, postage, printing, and labor costs.
  • Increased Productivity: Since 1996, the Facilities Management Division grew by only 13 employees despite managing 140 capital projects per year during the past 20 years, compared with 40 projects per year during the four years prior to that. Also in that time period, they managed an additional 3.7 million square feet of property. In 2000, in the Research Accounting Department, each grant accountant handled $19 million in research grants. Today, each accountant handles more than $41 million in grants.
  • Administrative Restructuring: The University has realigned resources to meet academic needs through administrative restructuring, which saved costs and personnel.
    • The administration of the College of General Studies has been moved into the School of Arts and Sciences.
    • Major administrative restructuring has occurred in the School of Dental Medicine and at the Bradford Campus.
    • The School of Information Sciences programs are now overseen by a school-wide council.
  • Programmatic Consolidation and Elimination: Schools realign resources to meet student demand. As resources are directed away from programs with low student demand, they are either consolidated or formally removed from the course catalog. As a result of this process, 66 academic programs have been eliminated over the past 20 years.
  • Voluntary Early Retirement Plan: In 2012, the University implemented a voluntary early retirement plan (VERP) for qualified staff employees; 352 staff members participated in the program, resulting in a total savings of $16 million.