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Carolina Counts began as an ambitious experiment in efficiency with the campus as its lab.

Four years – and more than $200 million in accumulated savings later – the ongoing success of that experiment has caught the attention of a legislative study group in Raleigh.

In December, the non-partisan Program Evaluation Division (PED) of the N.C. General Assembly singled out Carolina Counts as the “closest example of a comprehensible approach to operational efficiency within the UNC system.”

The report was produced at the request of the legislature’s Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Committee to examine efforts to streamline, improve and reduce costs of campus operations across the UNC system.

Pam Taylor, the senior investigator of the study, said Carolina Counts has nearly all the essential elements required for success, including a campus charge to promote operational efficiency, establish benchmarks for improvements and maintain a central office to track progress.

“Our charge was to look at operational efficiency efforts throughout the UNC system,” Taylor said, including General Administration’s centralized efforts and the various programs established at individual universities in the system.

The study group conducted site visits at six of the 17 member institutions, including Carolina.

“In comparing what Chapel Hill is doing to our criteria for a comprehensive approach, we saw that it was definitely the closest to the comprehensive model we were looking for within the UNC system,” Taylor said.

Carolina Counts was initiated by former Chancellor Holden Thorp to carry out the recommendations of the operational study initiated by Bain & Company in summer 2008 – several months before the recession began. The annual savings in state funding from Carolina Counts have increased to more than $60 million.

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Published January 30, 2014.