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Sports Forum / Everything to Know About MLB's New Rules in 2020
« on: November 16, 2019, 05:12:48 PM »
MLB will see some noticeable changes in 2020. Here's what you need to know about each of the rule adjustments.

Sports Forum / Lady Panthers Visit No. 14 Lee Tonight at 6 p.m.
« on: November 16, 2019, 04:54:28 PM »
Fresh off a big win over Saint Leo Thursday, the Clark Atlanta Lady Panthers are back on the court today for another big game, this time at No. 14 Lee University at 6 p.m. 

The game will streamed live at


A Recession Is Looming. Even Harvard Is Uncertain About What That Means for Higher Ed.

Harvard is an outlier when it comes to most issues in higher education, with its $40-billion endowment, buffer from state budget politics, and end-of-year operating surplus nearing $300 million. But in preparing for a brewing economic recession, the university is no exception: It faces a lot of uncertainty.

That’s partly because so much has changed since the Great Recession. The university has new revenue streams. Officials are in the process of restructuring the endowment-management company. And an American culture of greater skepticism toward higher education means that universities may bear the brunt of any downturn on many fronts.

“Some economists have suggested that student debt could be a precipitating factor in the next recession, which would place higher education in the awkward position of being vulnerable to and potentially blamed for the financial crisis,” reads one document of several posted to Harvard’s website on the university’s financial planning. The university’s office of financial strategy and planning wrote that higher education may face greater regulatory control and additional tax obligations because of the changed sentiment. (The university did not make members of that office available for comment.)

“We’re 123 months into the longest expansion maybe in U.S. history, and we see indications that we’re toward the end of the cycle,” said Thomas J. Hollister, chief financial officer, in a Harvard publication. “All of our schools and units are doing scenario planning, thinking through what they can or should be doing now to prepare for a variety of economic pressures.”

Part of the uncertainty is due to the fact that institutions across the country changed many things about their revenue streams and operations in the decade after the Great Recession.

Harvard now brings in significant revenue from nondegree programs, and research funding from nonfederal sources. The university’s office of financial strategy and planning said in one report that it’s unclear how those sources, which have grown significantly since 2008, might respond to a future recession, predicted widely by economists.

Nearly half of Harvard’s $1.2-billion net tuition revenue comes from continuing and executive education, according to one document reviewed by The Chronicle, and officials said that stream next year may grow to be larger than net revenue from undergraduate- and graduate-degree tuition. Nine of Harvard’s 12 schools have executive-education programs for individuals and organizations.

Research funding from nonfederal sources like foundations and corporations brought in hundreds of millions of dollars, and that money is growing at a faster rate than federal research dollars are. (Federal research grants still bring in about twice the revenue of nonfederal sources, however, at $631 million last year.)

“Because many of these programs are relatively new, it may be difficult to predict how they will respond in an economic downturn,” the university’s financial-strategy office wrote this fall in one document on financial resilience.

Though they acknowledged the unknowns, analysts at Moody’s Investors Service praised the diversification of those revenue sources, saying it put Harvard in a more stable financial position. Employers may be less willing to pay for their staff’s enrollment in continuing-education programs during a recession, but self-funded enrollment may rise, said Susan Fitzgerald, associate managing director at Moody’s.

Harvard attributed some of the broad scrutiny of higher education to outrage over tuition costs and free-speech issues, in addition to skepticism over the value of a degree. It has already experienced new regulations in the form of an endowment tax, which cost the college about $49.8 million in the 2019 fiscal year.

“Social risks are high to the higher-education sector,” Fitzgerald said. “The scrutiny of higher education and affordability of higher education is a constraining factor around tuition revenue growth. We’re not anticipating that that’s going to change.”

American chief financial officers surveyed by Duke University and the CFO Global Business Outlook last year overwhelmingly — at 82 percent — predicted a recession to begin by the end of 2020.

Colleges nationwide are examining their budgets as they anticipate a future recession, said Sarah Pingel, a senior policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States. They are considering deferring purchases and maintenance, relying more on part-time contingent faculty members, and freezing hiring and travel.

Some campuses have already leaned on those strategies and are close to a limit after which they would be compromising student success, she said.

“All institutions need to be doing the planning, regardless of whether they’re a small community college or a four-year private like Harvard,” she said, adding that some states require colleges to plan for financial slowdowns. “Other institutions know that we’re pretty far into this economic expansion, and there’s probably a recession looming.”

Moody’s in February cited Harvard’s “effective” risk-management strategies as allowing the university to adjust to bad market conditions, and Jeffrey Kaufmann, lead Harvard analyst at Moody’s, said that the university has “reputational power” that positions it well in an uncertain environment. Still, Harvard has urged departments to pay down debt and build their cash reserves. In donor management, employees are encouraged to “review restricted gift terms for opportunities for more expansive use of funds.”

Schools and units regularly submit rolling five-year financial plans, and this year they must include additional “downside” plans and identify activities “where there may be opportunities to limit or reduce scale or scope,” according to the university’s financial report for the 2019 fiscal year.

And administrators warn expansionists that nothing is guaranteed to last forever. One document on financial resilience says future capital plans should be designed “with a phased or modular approach so they can be stopped if necessary.”

From last year...

$270 Million for a Football Complex ... at Northwestern

Its fundraising goal met, Northwestern University raises its target to $5 billion


The pressure to maintain elite status is starting to be reflected in the finances of some of the nation’s pre-eminent private research institutions.

Last month Northwestern University became the latest such institution to have its bond rating lowered by Moody’s Investors Service, the financial-information company. Moody’s cut the university’s rating of nearly $2.2 billion in debt, from its top grade of Aaa to Aa1, its second-highest score.

As Moody’s noted, the “pressure to invest to sustain competitiveness with other elite universities will be challenging.”

To be sure, Northwestern still occupies an enviable perch in higher ed, with an $8-billion endowment. But ratings downgrades typically trigger larger interest payments. It’s unclear, however, how much Northwestern’s interest payments will increase as a result of the October downgrade.

“It’s unlikely, in our opinion, that they are going to return to the very high cash flow that they used to have, at least over our outlook period,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an analyst at Moody’s. “They’ve invested in faculty and infrastructure that has increased their fixed cost base.”

Northwestern is generating smaller gains from its operations than it did in previous years, Moody’s found. While tuition revenue has remained stable, Northwestern’s expenses across nearly every category have grown significantly. Of particular concern to the analysts was the university’s debt load. It tripled between the 2011 and 2018 fiscal years, from $775 million to $2.555 billion. For every dollar Northwestern earned from operations in 2014, the institution was liable for $2.60 in debt. Four years later, that ratio had ballooned to $18.10 in debt for every $1, according to Moody’s calculations.

What is that debt financing? Some of it has funded or will fund the construction of a medical-research center, a life-sciences building, an engineering-design center, a proteomics-research building, and a chemistry lab. Northwestern recently opened its Simpson Querrey Biomedical Research Center on its Chicago campus (total cost: $455 million), which was partly funded by the issuance of debt.

In its analysis, Moody’s cited the increasingly competitive environment for federal research funding. While Northwestern has seen growth in the amount of money it has raised for research in recent years, Moody’s noted that such competition “can prove difficult given the strategic imperative of enhancing its research standing.”

Similar pressures can be seen in other areas of the enterprise. “What they are competing for are the most academically qualified students, and the most renowned faculty and researchers,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s an expensive proposition in terms of being able to compete on those levels.”

Northwestern declined to make administrators available for an interview, though it provided a statement attributed to Craig Johnson, senior vice president for business and finance. He noted that the university continues to maintain top scores from two other credit-rating agencies, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch.

“We are committed to our strategic initiatives and our financial plan,” Johnson wrote, “which maintains steady progression towards returning to balanced operations by the end of FY 2021 while also being informed by the university’s academic and research vision.”

And Moody’s continued to express confidence in the institution. Despite the downgrade, Moody’s said Northwestern still holds an “excellent credit profile” that is “supported by its strong and growing balance-sheet reserves.”

Pressure on Other Universities

Some of the language that appeared in Moody’s report on Northwestern has also cropped up in the analyses prepared for similar elite private research institutions.

For instance, Boston University’s Aa3 rating, in June, was “tempered by the highly competitive conditions to attract both students and research awards.” Case Western Reserve University’s investment in a new health-education campus held the “potential to grow research funding and student demand,” but Moody’s noted in a report in March that the university’s operating performance was lower than that of its peers, “reflecting recent investment in the new campus.”

Finally, like Northwestern, Washington University in St. Louis’s June 2017 downgrade, from triple-A to Aa1, was “driven by a substantial increase in debt relative to reserves and operations.” The university declined to comment on how the ratings change had affected it, if at all.

Other elite private research universities maintained their top ratings, according to The Chronicle’s review of Moody’s analyses. At least six institutions held the Aaa rating: Columbia, Harvard , Princeton, Rice, Stanford, and Yale Universities. Other institutions may or may not have had their ratings lowered; not all universities have their financial positions graded by Moody’s. And because public universities could theoretically be bailed out of their debt obligations by state taxpayers, The Chronicle chose not to include that type of institution in its analysis.

What does it take to be a Aaa-rated elite private research university? To Moody’s, it’s a matter of continuing to invest robustly in attracting the best researchers and students in the world, while generating large revenues and taking on as little debt as possible.

As Moody’s opined to bondholders in April 2018, Columbia would continue to hold onto its top rating given “our expectation that Columbia will successfully navigate its continued expansion, without significantly increasing financial leverage, and maintain core market strengths and consistently positive operating performance.” Columbia declined to comment for this article, citing a policy of not publicly discussing investment performance, strategy, or tactics.

Elites and Super-Elites

The differing credit ratings among similar-seeming institutions points to the increasingly stratified nature of higher education’s economics, said Brendan Cantwell, an associate professor of educational administration at Michigan State University.

This group of highly selective institutions actually contains two separate groups, the elites and the super-elites, said Cantwell, who, with his co-author, Barrett J. Taylor, identified the split in their book, Unequal Higher Education: Wealth, Status, and Student Opportunity (Rutgers University Press, 2019).

Elites include institutions like Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon University; super-elites are institutions like Harvard and Stanford. Cantwell and Taylor found that super-elites spend about $90,000 per year per student. Elites spend about $50,000 per year per student.

As a result of that dynamic, universities in the elite tier fear falling further behind the super-elite, Cantwell said. And so elites feel that they can’t take their “foot off the gas,” he said. Furthermore, the system dictates that they can’t expand their enrollments significantly, because then they would be seen as less selective, and therefore less prestigious.

While Cantwell said Moody’s and other such organizations can accurately interpret the distinctions between elites and super-elites, instruments like ratings and rankings can reinforce problematic policy. Cantwell said such instruments can sometimes do more to calcify established social biases than signal significant financial risk.

Ratings and rankings are part of a larger social system in which leaders of elite institutions operate, and the demands of the system, Cantwell said, are sometimes indifferent or directly contradictory to a more-expansive vision of higher-education policy. And so it can be difficult for even the most charismatic and creative leaders to carry out policies in such a competitive environment, he said.

“Moody’s isn’t going away,” he said. “U.S. News isn’t going away. College consultants who steer students into these places aren’t going away. The anxiety that upper-middle-class and wealthy families have about getting their kids into the best colleges isn’t going away. And our attention to these institutions, as researchers and journalists, isn’t going away.”

Sports Forum / Ian Lee’s basketball goals become reality at Howard U.
« on: November 16, 2019, 10:41:19 AM »
He’s considered the first Chinese-Canadian NCAA Division I men’s basketball player.

No, we don’t need a “White College Football Hall of Fame.” But the Black College Football Hall of Fame is very necessary.

Which is the most stressful job at an airline? Pilot? Flight attendant? Lost-baggage troubleshooter? Chief executive?

- Bryant helps Baby2Baby raise almost $5 million in Los Angeles

- Blankfein joins Goldman contingent for Studio Museum in Harlem

For nearly two years, car enthusiasts have been trying to figure out what Ford meant when it said its new electric SUV was "Mustang inspired." On Sunday, they'll find out.

The retail rethink doesn’t stop at the clothing rack. The new store has less stuff — 13% less inventory to be exact — and more experiences: lounges, a barber shop, a “selfie studio,” even yoga classes.

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