Although fluff pieces about football practice at Rutgers have flooded the newswires over the past few weeks, the university is still suffering from reports of shady financial practices that have favored football over academics. (See this post for the last update and summary.) In order to combat the bad press, university officials are trying to allay fear that Rutgers is in financial distress (as if we didn’t already know because of the 8.5% tuition hike). In an article released last week, it was reported that this year over $121 million was donated to Rutgers, making it a record-breaking year. $121 million is nothing to sneeze at, but the assertion that it represents a record-breaking year for fund raising is untrue.
As revealed in the comments at the Rutgers 1000 blog, $123.3 million was donated to Rutgers in 2001. (You can see for yourself here; look at the 13th page.) It might not be that big of a difference numerically, but the fact of the matter is that university officials either aren’t keeping track of what has been donated during previous years or that they are purposefully trying to assure the public that there is no financial crisis at the university.
Indeed, rather than being unequivocal good news the fact that donors gave $121 million is somewhat embarrassing as the university has failed to drum up the $30 million in donations it expected to expand the football stadium. As university board of governors member George Zoffinger wrote in The Record yesterday, the original plan was to take out about $73 million in loans for the expansion with the rest of the money (about $30 million) coming from donors. The donations have not materialized, and Zoffinger reports that even though cuts have been made to the project the expense of building the expansion is still rising. Rutgers will be taking out $100 million in loans to cover construction costs.
How is the university going to pay back the borrowed money? No one is talking, but I presume that students are going to have to shoulder at least part of the burden in coming years. The money certainly isn’t going to come from the football team, an athletic black hole so powerful that several sports were cut in 2006 so that football could have a bigger slice of the pie. Even if the team makes money, a rarity in college sports, I doubt that it is going to be enough to pay back the $100 million debt with any amount of speed. Tuition will probably continue to go up while quality of education goes down. Contrary to popular opinion, football is not helping academics at Rutgers.
I have been writing about this series of unfortunate events at my own university for nearly a month now, yet the promise of “increased transparency” from university officials has yet to be fulfilled. Maybe they’re hoping that the bad press will just go away when the football season starts on Monday, but even if the football team is successful much bigger problems threaten to continue the tumultuous financial situation Rutgers is stuck in.