Oh, if we only knew the answer. Rensselaer Poly is switching over to fixed-rate loans, a smart move when you’ve got so much debt and the rates are turning. Issuing the bonds, though, means typing up a prospectus and that means telling the truth for a change. My favorite story is how the schools fudge their average SAT scores to US News and World Report but they tell the truth to the bond rating agencies. (They exclude special admits like athletes, alumni children, etc. from the US News stories.)
Do we know they’re telling the truth this time? I’m not sure that the folks at the helm of the universities even know the truth themselves. Shirley Ann Jackson strikes me as the type of person who’s going to do big, important things even if it kills her and her institution. The school has a huge, new arts complex– something that may or may not be a waste of money at an engineering school. She’s also building herself a spanking new mansion that’s so big the school had to wiggle around the zoning rules. Then she pays herself $1.6m a year because she’s worth it.
All of these dreams cost money and that’s why the school is now underwater just like many of the students that graduate. Thanks to Scott Waldman’s great reporting at the Times Union, we know the school owes $746m but only has an endowment of $643m. I suppose the school might be able to liquidate and pay off its debt– if there were anyone else who wanted to live in upstate NY.
My favorite deception is the so-called $1.4b fund raising campaign that is supposedly a big success. Waldman sets us straight: the school has only received $275m in real donations. Some of the checks are probably in the mail but the greatest self-delusion is the so-called gift of $575m in software. I have no idea whether someone is bilking the IRS with a $575m deduction, but it’s clear that RPI is not going to be able to turn that gift of $575m of software into $575m of dorms, climbing walls, latte bars, and new chairs for professors in cross-disciplinary, meta biolinguistics. Sheesh. I hope no one at Rensselaer actually believes the tripe.