Next chancellor should restrict growing debt

Though Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s successor has yet to be determined, the financial ideology that Syracuse University’s next leader must follow is unequivocally conservative.

When Cantor became chancellor in 2004, she inherited $150.5 million in debt from the former leadership. Today, SU’s debt has risen to $396.9 million. This substantial increase is due to the university’s construction of seven additional buildings during Cantor’s tenure.

Adding buildings like the Life Sciences Complex and Dineen Hall, which is now under construction, is necessary for the university. These complexes allow the university to be more competitive with peer institutions.

Although these additions help improve SU’s standings, the rate of expansion is concerning.

The university’s top financial officials have confidence that the rising debt is manageable. Though outside bond rating agencies agree, Moody’s Investors Service has said SU is nearing its additional debt capacity. This is mainly due to the university’s debt being held in balloon payments.

When Cantor resigns in June 2014, her successor will be well advised to be fiscally conservative.

The chancellor’s search committee recently released the requirements SU officials are seeking in the next chancellor. Among those stipulations is “an engaged and energetic fundraiser able to further develop sources of financial support,” which is an imperative quality given the university’s fiscal state.

The next chancellor must be analytical when he or she implements new plans, as any further construction must be deemed absolutely necessary for the university to successfully advance without more harmful debt.

The next chancellor will still be challenged with the need to be continually innovative. A balance should be struck in expanding without excess and spacing out the start of new projects.

Cultivating SU’s growth both academically and through physical construction should still be the next chancellor’s goal. But the growth of debt must be restricted to ensure the university’s overall success in the future.


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