Chief Financial Officer presents university finances and reiterates master plan

Tucker Nielsen, Lode Writer

On Feb. 2, the University Senate welcomed Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President for Administration Susan Kerry to their meeting. She presented the university’s financial standings based on last year’s data. Kerry began the presentation by stating, “We’re in a place more stable financially,” comparing it to 2020. 

Kerry presented the University Dashboard initiative as a developing project under Administration. Their goal is to create transparency in data for clearer decision making. These dashboards are accessible at www.mtu.edu/institutional-research/university-dashboards/, ultimately “open to all the university community and the board of trustees,” according to Kerry. It would provide in-depth financial ratings, enrollment statistics, expected university revenue, and other potentially-beneficial information for everyone to access.

Kerry brought up the Campus Master plan and presented last week’s draft. She discussed that there has been “all kinds of opportunities for engagement in this work,” referring to the drafting and revisions. She showed the senate the renders for the downtown gateway, where first and second-year housing will replace the Alumni House, along with a parking structure over parking Lot 11. Additionally, East Gateway housing will house between 500 to 600 beds with waterfront views. When questioned why construction was highlighted in the Campus Master plan over renovations, Kerry reaffirmed that renovations in current spaces were the top priority before constructing new housing.

She presented the Fiscal Year 2021 evaluations, where the university was evaluated on their financial strengths and weaknesses. She noted that strengths included favorable fundraising on a per-student basis, as well as good revenue diversification for university funds. However, she stated that “We have not invested in facilities as we should.” Additional issues noted included a highly-competitive student market and higher cost business model associated with STEM focus that constrain budget flexibility for unexpected costs/challenges.

Kerry brought up Moody’s credit opinion, which rated the university at A1, or stable. However, she reaffirmed that declined enrollment and net tuition revenue could downgrade credit rating. She presented enrollment numbers to show Michigan Tech’s growth within the past year. In 2021, 7,006 students were enrolled, up from 6,875 in 2020. It was one of only two institutions in the state of Michigan that saw a positive increase in student enrollment (University of Michigan was the other). Kerry affirmed that this showed a turnaround for the university and opportunity to progress forward.

She also brought up improvements to university faculty benefits, such as tuition reimbursement for employee dependents, larger life insurance coverage, and other employee benefits. She states their goal is to “sustain a healthy, inclusive and engaging work environment.” 

As for unfinished business from the last meeting, Proposal 25-22 was presented and approved. It would create an ad-hoc committee to update senate bylaws and requirements. No new proposals were presented afterwards.Recordings, agendas, and minutes for all senate meetings can be found at https://www.mtu.edu/senate/meetings/.