Dear Campus Community:
Last week contracts were released for the land bridge and parking garage projects. Both projects will be moving forward as quickly as is possible. Plans for the new student recreation center have been returned for redesign, with a request to lower costs to fit within the financial model constraints, along with accommodating retention of the current facility. Costs for the project ballooned to well over $60M, exceeding the boundaries of the original financial model. To date, the student fee supporting the land bridge and recreation center has generated well below projections, an estimated $15M.
Several variables have converged requiring us to sequence these projects in a careful and thoughtful manner. Most importantly, it is our commitment to financial responsibility and containing student costs/debt. Three years ago the UofM had no tuition increase, a first in 34 years. The last two years we have had tuition increases under 3% each year. In contrast, over the previous 15 years the average tuition increase was 8% annually.
The current recreation facility has debt service that will not be retired until the year 2030. Accordingly, we will not be demolishing the building. We will immediately begin limited improvements that will see the facility through the next decade. Redesign of the new recreation facility will delay that project by approximately 18 months. This delay not only allows us to establish much needed parking in advance of the facility, but also to implement a responsible financial model that will NOT demand additional tuition and fee increases to fund the project. Just a few weeks ago I rejected a request for a new student fee to fund the operational costs of a new facility. Since the Governor has recommended funding for our new music center this year, resolving the parking challenges are paramount. As you are likely aware, the recreation center will result in the loss of up to 1,000 parking spaces, with the new music center absorbing another 800. It is critical we have new parking in place prior to these facilities breaking ground.
I have received questions about the new basketball facility, which is on pace to be completed this fall. The facility is funded entirely through private donations.
If you have questions, please don't hesitate to let me know. There is more construction on campus and in our neighborhood district than at any time in our history. We have made a firm commitment to the growth of our University. Accordingly, it is critical that we be thoughtful and careful in our planning. In particular, it is imperative we live within our financial constraints. Our commitment to containing tuition and fee costs cannot be understated.
I will be speaking with the SGA on Thursday to address any questions or concerns. Again, we are moving forward with all projects. We are simply modifying the sequencing, along with implementing an 18-month delay on the student recreation center.
|M. David Rudd
President | Distinguished University Professor