Could Relaxing Procurement Rules Save Colleges Money?

Mar 20, 2015


Sen. Chapin Rose

Under Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal, public universities are facing a 32 percent cut. Legislators took testimony Thursday on how those cuts would affect each school. 

Each school president testified that Rauner’s reductions would force them to cut courses, decrease scholarships, and layoff staff. Illinois State University say it might have to cut 400 jobs. Northern Illinois University could raise freshman tuition by 75 percent. 

But another theme that emerged was the cost of procurement rules -- the complicated process that governs purchasing goods and services at public universities. 

Larry Dietz, president of Illinois State University, mentioned projects delayed so long they had to be re-bid, and Sen. Chapin Rose, a Republican from Mahomet, picked up on that idea.

“The regulations were such that they couldn’t bid anymore, and so the price of the project doubled,” Dietz said.

“Doubled two dollars to four dollars?" Rose asked.

“Two hundred thousand dollars,” Dietz replied.

Rose said Randy Dunn, president of Southern Illinois University, had estimated that procurement rules cost his three campuses somewhere between $22-24 million. University of Illinois President Robert Easter said procurement rules cost easily $70 million among the three U of I campuses, but that the true cost is in missing out on bids from vendors unwilling to jump through all the hoops.

“You don’t know if you’re getting the best bids,” Easter said, "because of the difficulty of navigating the process.”

“When you’re talking about 70 million dollars," Rose said, "that’s a third of the proposed cut that’s on the table right now.”

Rose also quizzed each school president about how much they spend on workers’ compensation.