institutionalfinance

$19M in Spending on Building That Won't Be Built

Amherst College spent $19 million on architectural and other expenses for a planned $245 million science building that the college has now decided not to build, The Boston Globe reported. Amherst officials say that they still need and plan to find a way to build a new science facility, but that the planned building was creating too many problems. The Globe article uses the Amherst situation to discuss competing pressures on colleges as the plan the best spaces for scientists. In the Amherst case, some science professors say that the project grew more expensive and more complicated in part because of a desire for architectural details (a light filled atrium, for example) as opposed to focusing on the basic lab spaces that the professors need.

 

Senate Panel Seeks Increases in Pell Maximum and NIH Budget

A Senate subcommittee on Tuesday approved a fiscal year 2014 spending bill that supports the launch of a “Race to the Top” program focusing on college affordability and calls for a significant increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health.

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies bill set discretionary spending at $164.3 billion. The bill includes $400 million to support the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This is a noticeable difference from last year’s budget plan, which omitted the $1 billion the administration had requested for the initiative. The funding for the program will be an incentive for states to reduce college costs and improve academic outcomes. The subcommittee would also allocate $850 million for the TRIO programs, which help low-income, first generation college students prepare for and succeed in postsecondary education. 

The Senate’s bill would also provide $31 billion to the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $307 million from last year, to fund biomedical research. The funding would allow the NIH to allocate $40 million for the new Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Under the plan, the total maximum Pell Grant would rise by $140 to $5,785.

The House has not yet introduced its version of the appropriations bill. It is considered unlikely that the two bills will be reconciled and passed. The full appropriations committee will meet on Thursday.

Oregon plan would shift tuition payment to after graduation

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Oregon will study plan to let students forgo tuition upfront in exchange for a proportion of their wages upon graduation. Critics say it is a bad idea that will never get off the ground.

Wealthy American Universities Start to Invest in Africa

Some of the wealthiest American universities are starting to invest in Africa, seeing the potential for large gains, Reuters reported. Northwestern University, with holdings in companies in Kenya and Nigeria, recently doubled its African investments. Other large endowments investing in Africa include those of the Universities of Michigan, Notre Dame, Texas and Wisconsin. Rockefeller University is expected to make such an investment this year.

 

Questions on William Peace U. Plan to Buy Retail Center

Some alumni and others are questioning a plan by William Peace University to use two-thirds of its $33 million endowment to buy a retail center adjacent to campus, The Raleigh News & Observer reported. University officials said that the center would provide income now and could at some point in the future provide facilities for expanding the university. Others question devoting so much of the university's endowment to the project. Still others have raised questions about the university's refusal to release the names of the trustees who voted on the matter.

 

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Deans Decry 'Financial Mismanagement'

A letter from deans at Howard University decries "financial mismanagement" at the institution, including the use of "inaccurate, misleading data" to make decisions on cuts, The Washington Post reported. The deans blame Robert M. Tarola, an independent contractor is senior vice president for administration, chief financial officer and treasurer, and questioned the "fiscal direction" in which he is leading Howard. "We believe this direction places the very survival of the university at risk,” the deans wrote in the letter addressed to Howard trustees. University officials defended Tarola, and said that he has helped improve the university's financial condition.

 

Suit Challenges Princeton's Tax-Exempt Status

A New Jersey judge has refused to dismiss a suit by residents of Princeton, N.J., challenging the tax-exempt status of much property at Princeton University, The Times of Trenton reported. Like challenges to the tax-exempt status of college and university facilities elsewhere, the suit argues that some facilities are used for purposes removed from Princeton's educational missions. But the novel argument (disputed by the university) in the suit is that because of Princeton's extensive activities with patent royalty income -- and the sharing of that income with faculty members -- Princeton has become a commercial enterprise, and thus should pay taxes.

Call for New Compact Between States and Public Higher Ed

Public higher education and states need a "new compact" to promote the needs of states and colleges, according to a new report by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. The report urges public colleges and universities to adopt accountability measures, deal with concerns about college affordability, link priorities to state needs and report on institutional outcomes. But the report stresses that these commitments will be difficult to make without consistent state financial support.

 

California Governor Removes Strings From Money for Ed Tech

California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed his own idea on Thursday to make the University of California and California State University systems spend $10 million each on education technology.

The new money was designed to allow the two systems to increase the number of online courses available to undergraduate students. Instead, under the budget Brown made law Thursday, the two universities will get to keep the money and spend it any way they want. Brown used his line-item veto power to take the strings off the money, although both UC and Cal State say they will go ahead with plans to buy technology with the funds. "Eliminating these earmarks will give the university greater flexibility to manage its resources to meet its obligations, operate its instructional programs more effectively, and avoid tuition and fee increases," his veto message said.

Even though they don't have to, both systems said they plan to spend the money on technology. “We’ve made a commitment to provide the $10 million, so it’s not going to affect our plans,” said Steve Montiel, a spokesman for the UC president's office.

Michael Uhlenkamp, spokesman for Cal State Chancellor Timothy White, said the system thinks technology can help address a critical need and that it can use the money to alleviate bottlenecks.

"So while there is no legislative mandate in the budget to accomplish this, we’ll still continue to work along those lines," he said in an email.

An earmark that gives nearly $17 million to the California community college system and mandates the system spend the money specifically on ed tech remained in the budget Brown signed Thursday.

Dean Florez, the head of the pro-online education 20 Million Minds Foundation and former majority leader in the California Senate, said Brown's veto should make colleges think about spending more on online education rather than less.

"Governor Brown vetoing his own earmark for online education in the CSU and UC, emphasizes that funding for said programs should not be limited in any way,” he said in a statement. “The California Community Colleges, who serve 2.4 million students and already have approximately 17 percent of their courses online, will still receive $16.9 million in dedicated funds for expansion of online access. In light of the advances made in the CCC system, we hope that the other two segments will follow through with their assurances of online program advancement to alleviate system-wide bottlenecks.”

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