UC Efficiency Efforts Yield $664 Million for Academics, Research Over Four Years

The UC’s Working Smarter initiative has realized $426 million in cost savings and $238 million in fresh revenue


The University of California has generated $664 million in cost savings and new revenue from efficiencies over the past four years and passed on most of that money to campuses to pay for academics and research, the university’s core missions.

Through a series of initiatives and programs including transforming procurement methods and increasing the efficiency of UC’s travel practices, the university’s Working Smarter initiative has realized $426 million in cost savings and $238 million in fresh revenue since the program launched four years ago.

“Working Smarter is an essential program for the university,” said Nathan Brostrom, UC chief financial officer. “As a public institution, we have an obligation to do everything we can to make UC operations as efficient and cost-effective as they can be, which is especially important given the decline in state funding we’ve experienced over the years.”

Brostrom discussed Working Smarter’s progress at the UC Board of Regents meeting on Nov. 19.

The initiative, now in its fifth year, has already exceeded its initial goal of generating $500 million in positive fiscal impact over five years. In the coming year, Working Smarter will seek to increase administrative gains by involving staff across the university in smaller-scale efforts that can produce results more quickly.

The Working Smarter initiative is a key part of the university’s plan to address about one-third of its budget gap through a combination of administrative efficiencies, cost savings and new alternative revenues.

In its fourth year, Working Smarter produced $203 million in administrative efficiencies from nine different projects, the most successful year so far for the initiative. Successes included transforming the university’s procurement systems, which generated $124 million in savings, a purchase card program for procurement that saved more than $7 million and an equipment maintenance insurance program that produced more than $851,000 in savings, among others.

About a third of Working Smarter’s ongoing projects are still ramping up and are expected to produce additional financial gains in the years ahead.

UC also is working with its counterparts in California higher education to find ways to boost efficiency. Partnering with the California State University and California Community Colleges, UC is seeking areas where services can be shared and operational effectiveness can be improved.

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