WorldTies: Finance picks up at UB
Article created: 09/05/2005 04:22:59 AM
This is the first of a three-part look at the fiscal health and status of the area's three private four-year colleges
Finance picks up at UB
Loans, students lead road back from ruin
. The University of Bridgeport that Lalla Belly, a senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., returned to this week is not the one she left last spring.
"The dorm rooms have a fresh coat of paint and new furniture. There's two [resident advisors] on every floor, which is good. More activities. More people," said Belly, 21, looking onto a sea of students enjoying a midweek barbecue outside the student center on the evening before classes started.
All that would make it better, the psychology major said, is heat in the dorms this winter — last year, a heating delivery snafu left several dorm dwellers freezing — and even more academic and social programs.
University officials are working on it.
Still not solvent according to its 2003-04 federal financial statement — the latest available — UB carried an $854,040 deficit into the 2004-05 year.
The still-to-be audited 2004-05 books are expected to show the university made $1 million more than it spent.
"The $854,000 [deficit] is real. The $1 million [surplus] will be real, too," said John Daley, a university spokesman.
UB's endowment, according to university officials, totaled $4.5 million, a figure that includes the $2.9 million Gould Scholarship Fund, which offers scholarships of $1,000 to $1,500 a year to freshmen women attending UB or other colleges.
Entering the 2004-05 fiscal year, UB carried loans totaling $10.3 million. That including a $2.25 million mortgage with Seaside Investment Group, an entity in which two unnamed university trustees have an interest. The university also had loans with Pickwich Investments Limited, a group affiliated with HSA-UWC (Holy Spiritual Association for the Unification of World Christianity, better known as the Unification Church) and the Professors World Peace Academy.
Daley said the trustees' loan was made to help UB during its transition to financial independence.
Since UB was saved from financial ruin in 1991 by a group tied to the Unification Church, it has lived on a steady diet of financial subsidies totaling more than $110 million. Two years ago, university President Neil Salonen announced UB was ready to make it without Unification support.
Daley said the Pickwich loan is old, and does not represent a new investment or support to the university.
The university's financial records show it also is owed about $4.1 million in debts it probably will never collect.
The doubtful accounts, a line that grows annually, has been carried for years. Most was amassed in a time when the university was less careful about making students pay tuition before they enrolled. That has since changed, said Daley, who is not sure when the debt will be written off.
Although a recent push has been made to raise money for student scholarships, there is work to do in financial aid, according to students.
Deidre Duke, a senior from Brooklyn who came for the school's computer science program but switched to psychology, said if the administration does anything,it should focus on providing more financial aid.
"There's not much grants, and if you do get one, a year or two later, they're gone," she said.
Duke said she has come to see that the public perception of UB — as a school "owned by the Unification Church," a group many view as a cult — is not like that on the inside. "They don't promote it really high. Most students don't know about it, but I read up on it. On the inside you don't see it at all," she said.
Some on the outside have begun to come around, too. David E.A. Carson, a former People's Bank president, has begun donating money to the university again. Nick Panuzio, a former Bridgeport mayor, is on the board of trustees again. The university recently won a 10-year reaccredidation endorsement from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Heather Roman-Green, 19, a sophomore from Woodstock, N.Y, also sees improvements. "They seem more organized this year," she said. "And there are a lot more students."
Still, the university remains tight-lipped about predicting success. UB officials refused, before the start of the fall term, to estimate how many new students they expected, even though estimates are there will be about 3,400 students overall when the official October headcount is taken. That would be an increase of more than 235 students — a 7 percent jump — over last year.
Bob Todd, an associate professor of computer applications and faculty spokesman, has heard promises that this year the budget will be completely in the black with no contributions from outside funding sources.
From a faculty perspective, there is still a lot of ground to make up. Salaries are low. Last year, UB professors, depending on rank, averaged $47,000 to $69,900 a year, according to figures compiled by the American Association of University Professors. At the same time, Sacred Heart University professors averaged $53,300 to $83,000.
Salonen is also in a salary holding pattern. On UB's 2003-04 financial statement, it was reported Salonen made $135,000 a year, the same as the year before. Some of his vice presidents make as much as he does. This year, faculty members are expecting 3.5 percent raises and an increase in retirement benefits.
Still, the faculty would like more in the way of "faculty development." Some professors, Todd said, have to pay their own way to professional conferences. The faculty financial picture is less than wonderful, but is hopeful, Todd said.
Linda Conner Lambeck, who covers regional education issues, can be reached at 330-6218.
Damian J. Anderson Damian.Anderson@...