Dear TU community,
As we are all aware from previous communications, The University of Tulsa has experienced budget deficits in recent years. This reality and the general negative trend in higher education finance has resulted in this week’s decision by Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade our rating on revenue and student housing bonds to Baa3. While we are appropriately concerned about this downgrade, it is important that we all understand it will have minimal impact on our ability to borrow and should not be felt in our day-to-day operations.
Despite the ongoing success of our 2017-22 Strategic Plan, it is difficult to escape the realities facing higher education today. Two years ago, Moody’s revised its overall outlook for universities from stable to negative because of the slowing of growth in tuition revenue and uncertainty at the federal level.
This change in our credit rating was not unexpected. We were able to share our plans and positive results thus far with Moody’s, but there is clearly more work to be done. EVP Kevan Buck recently shared information about TU finances across campus, and it was clear that we did not get into this situation overnight. While we have made many changes already, we must all pull together and find ways to enhance our financial standing through responsible cost reductions in addition to our initiatives focused on growth. As a result of our efforts to date, our position is gradually improving. Since 2017, we have:
- moved to zero-based budgeting;
- raised tens of millions of dollars for scholarships;
- increased the number of domestic students enrolling at TU;
- identified opportunities for increased efficiencies in academic programs and auxiliary enterprises; and
- continued to look for ways to streamline our administrative operations.
We must strive for a sustainable business model with a focus, most of all, on student success. It is a delicate balancing act, but one we believe is achievable and will ensure the future success of our university.
I appreciate the disciplined work being done by faculty and staff to keep expenses in check and identify new ways to make TU a better value for students. I look forward to continuing this important work for everyone in the coming year.
Gerard P. Clancy, M.D.