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NYU vacation home loans pay into narrative of administrative excess

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Compensation scandals seem to garner more publicity when the public sees some symbol of extravagance. That makes New York University’s current controversy about vacation homes potentially problematic.

NYU Gives Loans for Executives' Vacation Homes

New York University is breaking new ground in compensation for higher ed executives and star faculty members by providing loans for vacation homes, The New York Times reported. President John Sexton received $1 million in loans for a home on Fire Island, while others have received assistance to buy second homes in other prime vacation areas. The article notes that many colleges provide homes for presidents, and some institutions in places like New York City -- where housing is expensive -- provide housing assistance for many others. But the article says that help for second homes is "all but unheard-of in higher education."

John Beckman, a university spokesman, told the Times: "The purpose of our loan programs goes right to the heart of several decades of sustained and successful effort at NYU: to transform NYU from a regional university into a world-class research residential university." The loans help attract and retain talent, he said.

Among the critics of the practice quoted in the article was Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, a former president of George Washington University who has been a defender of high salaries and benefits for higher education leaders. "That’s getting to be a little too sexy even for me, and I have a good sense of humor about these things," he said. "I don’t think that’s prudent. I don’t mind paying someone a robust salary, but I think you have to be able to pass a red-face test."

Groups Ask for More College Oversight on Private Loans

In a letter to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau on Monday, consumer advocacy groups, higher education associations and others asked the bureau to require that colleges give prior approval before students borrow private loans, saying that the bureau has the power to require full certification by institutions. Right now, students "self-certify," meaning they sign off on a form that includes information about federal student loans and other forms of financial aid. Requiring colleges to certify that they are aware of the loans, the groups argued, would help ensure that students have already maxed out their federal loan options (many private loan borrowers have not), because federal loans usually offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment options than private loans.

AAUP censures two institutions following violations of shared governance amid financial crises

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AAUP censures institutions that have eliminated faculty and academic programs during budget crises.

Scrutiny for Athletics Deficit at Boulder

Since 2006, the athletics department at the University of Colorado at Boulder has paid nearly $9.8 million in severance payments to former coaches and other employees, The Boulder Daily Camera reported. The payments are generating scrutiny because the department currently has a $7.5 million deficit. Jerry Peterson, a physics professor and chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, said that "we all recognize that the Boulder campus is facing tight financial times, and that [nearly] $10 million -- even if it's over several years -- is a loss to academics."

 

Goddard Cuts Faculty, Staff Pay to Deal With Deficit

Goddard College is cutting faculty and staff pay to deal with a $550,000 deficit in a budget of less than $13 million, The Rutland Herald reported. Goddard is a nontraditional college where students have relatively short residency periods at the Vermont campus and work remotely with faculty members on individualized academic programs. Officials blamed the deficit on enrollment declines. The pay cuts will be tiered, with no reductions for those earning up to $30,000. The college will also be suspending retirement contributions, and eliminating severance pay, but no layoffs are planned.

 

Conditions Dropped From California Funding Bill for Higher Ed

The budget bill for California higher education for the coming year will include increased reporting requirements, but not a direct linkage between increased funding and accomplishing certain goals, The Los Angeles Times reported. Governor Jerry Brown had wanted public higher education -- as a condition of more money -- to improve graduation rates, enroll more low income students and freeze tuition. But higher education leaders said that those goals might not be possible given the severity of budget cuts over the last decade. Legislators generally accepted that argument.

 

Twitter Account Sets Off a 'Boobment'

The uproar over the "KUboobs" Twitter account is being called a "boobment." The account features photographs that women send in showing their cleavage with University of Kansas T-shirts and other KU accoutrements. Fans of other colleges and universities have started similar accounts. Rumors spread this week that the University of Kansas was trying to have the site -- with which it has no affiliation -- shut down. Online outrage followed, along with new hashtags such as #saveKUboobs and #IloveKUboobs. The university has denied trying to shut down the site, maintaining only that it was seeking to prevent the site's founders from selling merchandise that infringes on university trademarks for KU material. The dispute appears to have drawn more attention to the Twitter account, which now has more than 63,000 followers.

Massive Spending Plan Approved for UConn

The Connecticut General Assembly has given final approval to a plan to two major spending initiatives for the University of Connecticut. One part would provide $1.5 billion for construction of facilities, including laboratories, equipment and housing. A second part would provide $137 million to hire additional faculty members so that enrollment can be increased in science and technology fields.

 

Saint Paul's College Will Close

Saint Paul's College, a historically black institution in Virginia founded in 1888, will close at the end of this month. While college officials did not respond to reports over the weekend of an imminent closure, the Associated Press reported that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools confirmed that it had been formally notified by the college of plans to close. The college has been in danger of closure since SACS announced a year ago that it was stripping the college of accreditation, making its students ineligible for federal aid. There had been some hope that the college would be rescued by merging with Saint Augustine's College, a historically black college in North Carolina. Both institutions were Both founded by the Episcopal Church. But last month, Saint Augustine's announced that it did not consider that plan viable.

 

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