institutionalfinance

UVA Tracks Applicants With Wealthy Relatives

For years, the admissions and advancement offices at the University of Virginia have been communicating about applicants with ties to wealthy alumni and donors, The Washington Post found.

Documents obtained by the Post include notes outlining the specific contributions that trace back to prospective students’ families and friends. The documents consist of 164 pages of data and reports since 2008. The so-called UVA watch list sometimes included jotted notes about a major donation (“$500k”) or a recommended decision -- “must be on WL” or “if at all possible A,” referring to “wait list” and “accepted.” The names of the applicants and their relatives were redacted from the documents, and the final admissions decisions were not included.

The 2013 records revealed that one donor was threatening to pull future contributions to the university after an applicant was put on the wait list. “According to people who have talked to him, [the person] is livid about the WL decision and holding future giving in the balance,” an advancement officer wrote in the file. “Best to resolve quickly, if possible.”

A spokesman for the university said fund-raising matters do not weigh on admissions decisions, and that the Office of Advancement receives recommendations for students by alumni and friends from time to time. “Such a practice is not unique to UVA and can be found at similar institutions,” Anthony de Bruyn, the spokesman, told the Post.

He added that the two offices do not coordinate about applicants, but that the advancement office “receives periodic updates to better inform its stewardship efforts.”

Based on the documents the Post received, 59 students applying for fall 2017 were followed by the advancement office.

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Rutgers Faculty Question Large Athletics Deficit

A faculty group at Rutgers University passed a resolution last week to express its concern and disappointment in the university’s athletic spending, NJ.com reported.

A report on the finances of the athletics program, released about two months ago, revealed an almost $40 million deficit in the 2016 fiscal year.

In response, the Rutgers New Brunswick Faculty Group unanimously passed a resolution to publicly voice its position about the overspending.

“The New Brunswick Faculty Council deplores the university administration's continuing failure to eliminate or even reduce the athletics program's chronic deficit spending and its continuing reliance on millions of dollars in student fees and general university funds to pay for the program's deficits -- all of which harms the university's academic mission,” the resolution says.

The athletics director, Pat Hobbs, defended the decision in a statement, saying that the department is “writing what will be the greatest chapter in Rutgers athletics history. We will be competitive, and we will do that in a fiscally prudent manner.”

He explained the spending as an investment that will make the program stronger and easier to grow in the future.

Rutgers also joined the Big Ten conference to help the program  “be in a position to generate a positive cash flow for the university,” a spokeswoman for President Robert Barchi said.

Previously, Barchi estimated that Rutgers’s membership in the Big Ten would result in $200 million in revenue in the first 10 years.

 

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Lawmakers Criticize Retiring President's Payout

The president of Mount Wachusett Community College in Massachusetts is retiring with a $334,000 payout for unused sick days, and state lawmakers are not happy, The Boston Herald reported.

Daniel Asquino, president of the college, accumulated more than 1,250 sick days in his three decades at Mount Wachusett, accounting for $266,060 of his payout. The remaining $68,079 comes from his unused vacation time.

Lawmakers are hoping to use this case to reinvigorate their efforts toward capping unused vacation and sick days.

“It’s mind-blowing,” State Senator Ryan Fattman, a Republican, told the Herald. “There has to be something that can be done legislatively, and I think these are the types of stories that give those efforts a lot of traction.”

Asquino’s payout surpasses that of a former Bridgewater State University president, who came away with about $270,000 in 2015. Until now, that was believed to be the biggest payout in public higher education in Massachusetts in the last decade, according to the Herald.

After the Bridgewater State case, the state Board of Higher Education adopted new rules to limit vacation payouts to 64 days. Asquino and Mount Wachusett are following that law in the retirement payout, but it’s Asquino’s massive supply of unused sick days that accounts for most of his take.

Governor Charlie Baker said the payout is “disappointing.” He is considering a proposal that would limit the number of unused sick days state employees can cash in on, but even that would only apply to the executive branch.

Others in the Legislature are hoping to expand on that proposal to include public colleges and universities’ employees as well.

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Sacred Heart University reaches management agreement with St. Vincent's College

Sacred Heart University lays groundwork to acquire a college primarily awarding two-year nursing degrees.

Education Dept. Defends Gainful Employment

The Trump administration defended the gainful-employment rule in federal court Wednesday, suggesting that it may not quickly roll back the regulation designed to crack down on programs graduating students unable to pay down high student loan debt loads.

The American Association of Cosmetology Schools filed a lawsuit in February to block the rule, arguing that gainful-employment data undercounted income of cosmetology program graduates. The suit argued those workers depend on gratuities and cash payments, while many underreport income. Administration lawyers argued on behalf of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a court filing Tuesday that challenges to the rule itself had already rejected by the courts, that no cosmetology program has yet to have access blocked to Title IV aid, and that the association had failed to provide evidence that underreporting of income was widespread among cosmetology graduates.

Republican lawmakers have been outspoken in their criticism of the gainful-employment rule, which was issued last year after two rounds of negotiated rule making and multiple court battles. DeVos declined in a January confirmation hearing to commit to enforcing the rule in response to questions from Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat.

The department earlier this month pushed back deadlines for programs to submit appeals of debt-to-earnings ratios, raising concerns among proponents of the rule that the administration would not aggressively enforce it.

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North Dakota Kills Women's Hockey Team

The University of North Dakota announced Wednesday that it is eliminating three athletic teams: women’s hockey and men’s and women’s swimming and diving. The university cited the need for deep budget cuts and said that scholarships awarded to current players would be honored.

Minnesota Public Radio noted that the decision was stunning in the world of women's ice hockey, as the team has been highly successful. The North Dakota team sent eight players to the last Olympic games and is sending five to this year's world championships.

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End to Deferred Compensation at Louisville

The University of Louisville Foundation killed a deferred compensation program that provided about $20 million to a small group of administrators, weeks after its lawyer said the program was structured to conceal it from foundation employees.

Former University of Louisville President James Ramsey and about a dozen other university officials received compensation under the program. Those who are currently vested in the program will receive money that was promised to them, but any remaining funds will not be disbursed, according to Louisville Business First. Six university employees will be affected by the decision, which was announced Tuesday.

Earlier this month, the longtime attorney for the University of Louisville Foundation told the foundation’s board that the organization had created two limited liability companies to administer deferred compensation awards for “obfuscation purposes,” according to WDRB. He later said he regretted using the word “obfuscation” and said the intention was to keep a group of people who work at the foundation from accessing records, not to conceal the compensation from the public.

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2 Nazarene Colleges, in Different States, May Merge

Trevecca Nazarene University, in Nashville, Tenn., may merge with Eastern Nazarene University, outside Boston, The Tennessean reported. Under a deal reached last week, Trevecca's president, Dan Boone, will lead both institutions for three years while officials consider a possible merger that would maintain the campuses. The hope for a merger is that it would save money by combining some administrative functions. Trevecca enrolls about 3,000 students. Eastern Nazarene enrolls about 1,000 students.

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UC Berkeley Chancellor Violated Ethics Rule

An investigation at the University of California, Berkeley, found that its chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, broke university policy by accepting free memberships to the campus recreational sports facility, campus exercise equipment and meetings with a personal trainer, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The value of the benefits Dirks received inappropriately since becoming chancellor in 2013 amounted to just under $9,000. The gym membership fees and personal training were estimated at $4,990, and the elliptical exercise equipment he accepted was valued around $4,000, according to a report released Friday.

By accepting these fitness perks, Dirks violated UC ethics rules that prohibit university employees from using campus facilities and resources without special authorization.

The investigation was launched in April, but a university spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that Dirks corrected the issue by September, before the investigation was closed, by apologizing and paying back the money he owed.

Dirks announced plans for his resignation last fall. His term will end on June 30, and Carol T. Christ, the interim executive vice chancellor and provost at Berkeley, will become the new chancellor.

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Costs of UNC Athletics Scandal Near $18M

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has accrued nearly $18 million in legal costs stemming from the decades-long scandal involving fake classes that appeared to benefit athletes disproportionately, The News & Observer reported.

The $17.6 million spent to date has gone toward an NCAA investigation, lawsuits filed by former athletes against the university, several law firms representing the institution, public relations costs to manage the scandal and the review, redaction and release of public records to news organizations. UNC has produced at least 1.7 million records related to the investigation.

UNC will not be paying off those legal costs with tuition dollars or state funds, officials told The News & Observer, and it’s very likely the university will be billed for additional legal fees in the coming months, as some of the lawsuits are ongoing.

The scandal in question spanned about 18 years and involved over 3,000 students -- half of them athletes. Some UNC employees were pushing students to take “paper classes” that were not taught by university faculty members and did not meet in person. In these courses, students received high marks on the single required assignment regardless of accuracy or quality.

It is widely considered one of the most far-reaching cases of academic fraud in higher education history.

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