Tennessee Tech University officials are studying the possibility of contracting its Food Service operations with a private company.
While no decision has yet been made, a committee will be created to review the university's options and make recommendations based on how a change would impact the personnel, level of service, cost to students, and financial impact on the university.
The review comes at a time when all state-supported institutions face tight budgets. After a laborious debate over tax issues and finances this summer, the legislature and Tennessee Higher Education Commission mandated that all public universities find ways to improve services and reduce costs.
"This is one of many things we're reviewing on our campus to ensure both efficiency and effectiveness," said President Bob Bell. Earlier this year, the campus and the commission began reviewing low-producing academic programs. Bell stressed that more reviews of other campus operations will follow as well.
TTU is the only public university in Tennessee still operating its own Food Services. Privatization at other schools has resulted in improved services and improved satisfaction, according to Bell.
Private food service companies have contacted the university for years, encouraging the review and touting successes at other campuses across the state and nation. Among the benefits stated were guaranteed service improvements, enhanced menu options, financial gains and a commitment to renovate facilities.
"We see what's happening on other campuses, and we hear what these companies are saying they can do for us," said Terry Rector, vice president of Business and Fiscal Affairs. "We decided it would be irresponsible not to look at the possibility.
"One of our chief concerns is and always has been our people. They will remain a priority when it comes time to make a decision."
Other issues, including how any change may affect student costs and services, will also weigh heavily in the review process, he said.
The committee will include students, faculty and staff, and will be charged reviewing a request for proposals and any proposals submitted. Along with input from the committee, campus officials will be gathering information through visits to other institutions and data provided by qualified vendors.
If a change in food service operations is recommended, the transition could occur as early as next summer or fall.