Higher Education Entities Evaluate Usage of Private Companies

Article excerpt

Oklahoma colleges and universities are evaluating the benefits of using private businesses to manage or operate university programs, provide services or conduct public projects, according to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

In October, the regents approved a contract with MGT of America Inc. to conduct a study on privatization that analyzes Oklahoma higher education's outsourcing efforts and compares the state's level of privatization to states with similar characteristics such as size, location, programs and student body.

"The State Regents have initiated this survey with the support of the governor and director of state finance to determine how Oklahoma colleges and universities are streamlining operations while minimizing cost," said Chancellor Hans Brisch. "This survey gives us the opportunity to evaluate our attempts to outsource services and to determine viable methods of privatization that will benefit schools, students and the state."

According to the report, Oklahoma higher education has seriously taken into consideration opportunities to more effectively and efficiently use state funds through privatization of business affairs and auxiliary enterprise activities.

The study shows that outsourcing has increased from an average of four activities in 1998 to an average of 29 activities in 2000. Additionally, every public college, university and higher education center is outsourcing at least one business affairs or auxiliary enterprise activity. Among the 32 institutions, the University of Central Oklahoma, Langston University, Oklahoma City Community College and Rogers State University reportedly outsource the largest number of activities.

Outsourced activities include contracting with private vendors for provision of services or the management of in-house staff and resources to provide needed services, selling franchises, using vouchers, selling assets, public-private partnering, allowing private enterprises to fill certain voids, and creating in-house businesses that provide the services to institutional units on a full-cost fee basis. The most commonly outsourced activities in colleges and universities are food services, laundry, construction projects, vending, janitorial services, elevator and vehicle maintenance, bookstores, and office equipment repair and maintenance.

"The State Regents as well as each public college and university have tried to wisely manage public funds by finding ways to lower costs without sacrificing quality," said State Regents Chairman Leonard J. Eaton Jr. "It is evident from the results of this survey, that our colleges and universities have made significant progress in this area. Although outsourcing services is not always the most effective option, the study indicates that each campus has made an attempt to thoroughly examine various outsourcing opportunities before choosing to privatize certain activities."

OSU teams with Nomadics

Oklahoma State University researchers are teaming with a Stillwater company to develop a monitor that will detect biological warfare agents in water.

OSU researchers will receive a three-year, $300,000 grant to work with Nomadics Inc. The goal is a technology that will enable Nomadics to manufacture monitors that could be used in municipal water systems, storage tanks or field water supplies used in disaster areas or by the military.

"We are trying to use our knowledge of these agents along with the knowledge of Nomadics and others might have in sensing to go ahead and produce a sensor capable of sensing these sorts of agents," said Ken Clinkenbeard, head of veterinary medicine pathobiology at OSU.

The research is funded by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.

Clinkenbeard said preliminary work has begun on the project, which will run through 2004. He said OSU is just one institution conducting this kind of research. …