Two students win a year of free tuition for ideas that save GW $1 million

Media Credit: Then-Junior Joe Holleran, right, and then-second-year law student Alex Schneider, middle, each received a free year of tuition for their cost-saving ideas last spring. The University is hoping to entice faculty and staff to pitch similar ideas with a cash prize or free parking. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

Junior Joe Holleran, right, and second-year law student Alex Schneider, middle, discussed their award-winning ideas for the Innovation Task Force with the head of that effort, Dave Lawlor. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

Junior Joe Holleran, right, and second-year law student Alex Schneider, middle,  discussed their award-winning ideas for the Innovation Task Force with the head of that effort, Dave Lawlor. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.
Junior Joe Holleran, right, and second-year law student Alex Schneider, middle, discussed their award-winning ideas for the Innovation Task Force with the head of that effort, Dave Lawlor. Photo courtesy of GW Media Relations.

Two students each won a year of free tuition this week after pitching plans to shut off GW’s energy-consuming technology at night and ditch the company making its international payments – ideas that are both worth $1 million in savings.

Junior finance major Joe Holleran and second-year law student Alex Schneider each earned $50,000 scholarships after beating out 47 other ideas for projects to help GW reach its goal of finding $60 million a year in cost-saving or revenue-producing programs.

After interning at an international processing company, Holleran realized that the University and students could save money if GW switched contractors and used foreign exchange strategies on international wire transfers.

Holleran, an international student from England, said a small firm GW contracts with currently charges fees up to 5 percent of the total payment, but larger companies like Western Union or World First, where he worked, charge at most 1 percent.

GW could also save money by negotiating flat rates on international wire transfers, which are used to pay for study abroad program fees and other dealings abroad, Holleran said.

Schneider, who is also a Hatchet columnist, found that by using Energy Star’s electricity settings, the University would be able to turn off computers and other technology systems that consume large amounts of energy at nights, dramatically cutting GW’s energy bill.

“It’s nothing new,” he said, pointing to similar conservation plans that have been adopted at schools nationwide. “I think the simplicity of it is something they really liked.”

University President Steven Knapp formed the Innovation Task Force in 2009 after the financial crisis forced GW to be more cost-conscious. He charged the group with finding $60 million in cost-savings or revenue-producing programs a year – essentially doubling the annual payoff from GW’s endowment.

Dave Lawlor, chair of ITF, said students brought “momentum” and fresh ideas to the group, which has already gone through five rounds of pitching projects across the University. Staffers in GW’s finance department will start working on implementing the students’ ideas this year, he added.

“We desired to tap this very knowledgeable and thoughtful base and wanted to recognize that participation in a meaningful way,” Lawlor said in an email. “I love the creativity and professionalism the students brought to this competition.”

The committee had planned to pick one winner, but decided that both ideas stood out as unique and possible innovations, Lawlor added.

This post was updated April 9, 2014 to clarify how GW could save money with international payment strategies.

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