LSU could save millions by overhauling its parking system, outsourcing the operation of its power plant and potentially partnering with a private developer to replace aging on-campus student housing, according to a private consultant the university hired.
Based on Huron Consulting’s analysis of university operations, a parking revamp that isn’t just an across-the-board increase for students and faculty, could net the school $5.8 million in five years.
Changes in energy operations also could save more than $5 million in five years.
It’s unclear exactly how much the university could save by partnering with a private developer for its housing needs, but the Chicago-based firm estimates it could lower per-bed operating costs from $2,875 now to as little as $2,494.
But leaders say the goal isn’t just about the money — it’s about making things run better.
“Our assignment from the president of the university was not to figure out how much money we were going to save in various areas. It was to ask the question, ‘How can we operate more effectively to accomplish the vision of the university?’ ” said Huron consultant Steve Goldsmith. “It’s not just how to cut costs; it’s how do we accelerate the vision?”
Dan Layzell, LSU’s vice president for finance and administration, said the Huron study is another step in making LSU operate more effectively.
He said he expects to have recommendations on how to move forward with Huron’s suggestions at the LSU Board of Supervisors October meeting.
Huron essentially subcontracted out each of its three focus areas — parking, student housing and energy — to experts in those fields, Goldsmith said.
The resulting 32-page report spells out several key details.
LSU has at least six residence halls slated to be replaced: Kirby Smith, McVoy, Acadian, Herget, Broussard and Miller.
Huron’s recommendation is to maintain control of new student housing, including the look and “feel” of dorms, but partner with a private developer who would serve as the project manager on the construction of the new units.
That would allow LSU to accelerate its replacement of old residence halls and lower maintenance costs, Goldsmith said. Newer housing also likely would lead to better student experiences, he added.
The most noticeable change in Huron’s recommendations deals with on-campus parking, specifically pricing spots based on location and demand.
“LSU has an interesting challenge in that it has too much parking in some places and not enough parking in others,” Goldsmith said. “The question is, how does one manage parking in a way that solves this?”
He said the firm steered clear of simply requiring people to pay more than they are paying now. But students and employees likely would be walking farther or taking the bus if they don’t want to pay for a premium spot.
LSU’s new parking garage has the university parking system operating “at a loss overall,” Goldsmith said.
The Huron report notes — somewhat conflictingly — that LSU has an underutilized garage and needs more garages.
Goldsmith said that would work out with the revamp of parking zones.
On the energy side, LSU’s power plant is “well-operated,” the report notes, but the university could mitigate short- and long-term staffing concerns by outsourcing and incentivizing energy efficiency. The firm estimates the proposal would save about $500,000 a year, plus lead to more frequent equipment upgrades that will capture savings.
Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.