BGSU sees lower debt hike than other Ohio schools
Written by JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN Sentinel County Editor
Friday, 08 February 2013 10:17
Some public universities in Ohio saw their debt nearly triple over the past decade as they built more classrooms, dorms and grand athletic facilities.
But in the same period, Bowling Green State University saw a comparatively minor jump of about 50 percent in its debt.
According to Sheri Stoll, BGSU's chief financial officer, the university's debt in 2002 was $79.3 million. By 2012, that debt had jumped to $124.4 million.
That number compares to Miami University where the debt has reached $494.4 million; Kent State at $499 million; Akron at $420.4 million; and Ohio University at $197.4 million, according to Stoll.
The biggest debt is held by Ohio State University, which racked up nearly $2.5 billion, more than quadrupling since 2002, according to the Associated Press.
Last month, Moody's Investment Services downgraded the outlook for the higher-education sector to negative due to debt concerns, the Associated Press reported.
"We've clearly taken a more conservative approach to borrowing," said Dave Kielmeyer, senior director of communications at BGSU.
A master plan for the campus, however, does call for the spending of $200 million on new and renovated buildings.
Much of the money will be spent on deferred maintenance needs, Stoll explained.
"The magnitude of the backlog of our maintenance is so significant," she said.
Much of the maintenance backlog is being blamed on decreased state funding.
"We believe the state of Ohio has a significant obligation of helping public universities and colleges in the state," Stoll said.
BGSU cannot address all the building issues at once, so a five- to seven-year master plan was devised based on assessments of every building on campus.
That plan needed to be in place, before the university could start spending, Stoll said.
"It's not that we're oblivious to the needs on campus, nor are we unwilling to borrow the funds," Stoll said. "We know we have far more needs than we have dollars available."
Of the $200 million price tag for the master plan, Stoll predicted the university would need to borrow $120 million to $130 million. An estimated $40 million to $50 million is expected to come from private donors and gifts. The remainder would be paid for through state capital dollars.
Stoll and Kielmeyer also pointed out that much of the recent building spending on campus has been for more "nuts and bolts" items on academic buildings, such as for roofs, elevators, sidewalks, infrastructure and tunnels that carry the university's steam power, electric and data network.
The master plan calls for the Administration Building, West Hall, and the Family and Consumer Science Building to be demolished. Some of the older, more historically significant buildings will be renovated, such as Moseley, Hanna, University and South halls.
Extensive renovations are also planned for the Business Administration Building and the student recreation center. Eventually, the Education Building will come down, and a new business building will be built - with private donations being sought for much of the $40 million business facility.
The demolition plans will result in the elimination of more than 200,000 square feet of buildings that have to be maintained, Stoll said. The loss of that space will be compensated for by academic space in the buildings being renovated, she said.