By Ed Gala, vice president, Marketing, United States Client Operations, Xerox

As a proud parent who’s writing rather large checks to two colleges, I love hearing about creative ways to keep tuition costs down and deliver better student services.

That’s exactly what happened when I dropped in on a gathering of about 25 higher education IT and administrative leaders from Tulane, Tuskegee, Saint Louis, Dillard, and other schools at a recent Focus Forward event.  The conversation was filled with interesting insights and strategies about how to lower expenses in the face of tighter government appropriations and increasing demands to do more with less.

Opportunities for savings and efficiency sometimes come in unlikely places.  In fact, based on the experience of one senior administrator, it pays to look in little-used closets where unknowing staff have been known to stash broken personal printers.Thumbs Up for Collegiate Cost Control

You can see how it happens.  The little ink jet on the assistant dean’s desk clogs up and she innocently stashes it in the closet vowing to call someone to pick it up another day.  Only that day never comes and some unfortunate department — usually shared services or IT — is still paying for charges on that discarded machine, incurring invisible costs.

Meantime, back at my house, I’m griping with fellow parents of college students about tuition bills that only go in the up direction.  And my daughters are calling to remind me that the sorority dues need to be paid and talking about that exciting opportunity to study in London next semester. Cha-ching.

So you can’t blame me if I get a kick out of hearing how one college took $215,000 of annual cost out by outsourcing their print shop.  And you’ll understand if my eyes light up when I learn a major university cut the number of individual printers in staff offices from 573 to 140 and saved $881,000 by conducting a campus-wide scavenger hunt for underutilized equipment — including that machine hiding in the closet.

I admit to nodding involuntarily when told of a 60 percent reduction in paper costs through centralized purchasing. And I applauded at the end when they talked about how all of this freed up dollars to invest in other priorities and student-centered programs.

Let me know if you’re aware of other things colleges and universities are doing to make the business of education less costly and more productive.

It won’t be long before two more tuition bills come due. And I need all the encouragement I can get.