Trustees wallop students and parents with big tuition hike. No word on end of wage freeze. Curious, tepid announcement about Kunshan

(As many FC posts, this is a commentary added to a report of the Trustee meeting in the Chronicle. In all probability, you do not have to read the newspaper's report to understand. This time.)

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✔ FC here. On duty all weekend.

While the Chronicle story properly tell us in the lead paragraph how the Trustees have walloped students and their families with a tuition hike far in excess of inflation....

the real story of the two-day Trustee meeting is the tepid response to plans for creation of a new university in China, that is, the Brodhead Administration's tumble into the financial sink hole of Kunshan.

First word -- not from the #1 FC mole but from a good source -- indicates increasing, penetrating questions by Trustees, some as shocked as Loyal FC Readers who learned last week how the estimated losses have ballooned -- with Duke's share at least $100 million over ten years, more probably $150 million and possibly higher. We had a briefing on the meeting, but are prevented from using direct quotes at this time at the request of the source. There's a reason for this, and you won't find that out either!

The Trustees left it this way: Brodhead and his team can go ahead and continue to negotiate the deal between Duke, Kunshan and the cellar-dwelling Wuhan University for creation of a new school. They can seek government permission to operate -- which can only be done during March or September each year. But there also must be an exit strategy.

We do not know if Brodhead won the $1.5 to $2 million a year subsidy he requested right now for Kunshan -- in reality $2.4 million since it included a 20 percent fudge factor. If this were not approved, it is a clear rebuke.

We had to laugh at Friday's Chronicle: Peter the Provost "clarified" Brodhead's request for $1.5 to $2 million a year directly from the Durham budget. "Clarified" that this was NOT the extent of the projected losses.

Peter, how come your boss cannot be clear.... or is it he did not want to be? How come he cannot stand before the Academic Council and level with them in a clear, concise manner, about the depth of financial problems in Kunshan. Itemize everything.

During the coming week, FC will have an analysis of statements made at the Academic Council meetings which show a turning tide.

✔ With the financial uncertainty of Kunshan, the Trustees also put off until May any decision on ending the two year old wage freeze. Make sure you understand: Kunshan is putting significant, unexpected strain on the Durham budget. The money we lose in China is just not on a tree, waiting to be plucked.

There is no word either on Trustee action on a capital campaign long overdue. While our officials blame the financial meltdown, 36 universities have campaigns for $1 billion or more right now, meeting great success.

Be ready for a really big battle in the months ahead, with faculty members stirring increasingly about the financial plans for Kunshan -- which were omitted or disguised in earlier Brodhead statements.

✔ ✔ The Chronicle correctly quotes the press release: there will be a tuition hike of 4.3 percent -- an astounding, way-higher-than-inflation bump. The overall cost of an undergraduate year including fees, room and board will increase 3.9 percent.

Thus the hike is $2,040, the total bill moving from $51,865 to $53,905.

Stop, stop. stop. The same PR department that gave us those numbers on Saturday... posted some figures months ago that conflict. Rather than being $51,865 now, the current cost was listed as $52,405. (We are also checking with students who get financial aid -- to see the total estimated cost that appears on the outline of their aid. )


Did these PR people think that FC would not be alert??

✔ More on the cost of Duke. First FC analysis: the soaring cost of Duke puts us at a serious competitive disadvantage.

Princeton, for example, will cost $49,069 next year, after its Trustees held the cost increase to one percent. This makes the new cost of Duke ten percent more than Princeton's, as FC had predicted last week. Using the newest official figures. Anything you see in US News and World Report about great values is now out-dated.

Or looked at another way: let's say you are a sophomore who loves Duke and you want your kids to come here. You are 20 years old, plan on having your first child at age 28, and the child will enter Duke at age 18. If costs continue to soar at the current rate, using the latest official figure for next year which contradict figures for this year as documented above, FC calculates your bill for your child's freshman year will be $145,758. And for the senior year, $169,861.

✔ ✔ While there were unexpected questions about Kunshan, the PR department was so sure of the outcome of the obeisant Trustee vote on tuition, for example, that its press release came out in the middle of the night Friday-Saturday..... before a vote that the PR people said occurred Saturday. Thus the Board of Lemmings lived up to expectations as it met in secret.

OK time for basketball. GO DUKE!