October 25, 2013

Administrators field student queries on Univ. finances

Courtesy of Jacky Jiang/Maroon Contributor

Top financial administrators discussed the University’s investment in natural resources and the issue of rising tuition in an open forum with students Thursday evening in the Reynolds Club.

Addressing student concerns about financial aid, Chief Financial Officer Nim Chinniah explained that the growth of financial aid will always outpace the growth of tuition and fees.

“[Tuition] only covers about a third of the University’s expenses…[this is] one of the reasons why we are never going to be an institution that balances the budget through tuition increases.”

He also dispelled misconceptions about the role of wealthy donors in shaping the campus community. “Our donors don’t set priorities. Our donors fund priorities set by the University.”

Chief Investment Officer Mark Schmid briefed students on the University’s endowment and investment activities. Providing a fairly technical overview of the team’s investment strategies and methods of risk management, Schmid repeatedly emphasized the importance of constant cooperation between the offices devoted to investment management and financial planning.

When asked by a student how much the University invests in natural resource companies—particularly those dealing in coal and other non-sustainable forms of energy—he provided an estimate of three to four percent of its investment portfolio.

Chinniah also discussed the University’s role in economic development on the South Side.

“We have the ability to act as a catalyst,” he said.

“Having an anchor institution like the University of Chicago that’s going to be around for generations is a great draw for retail developers,” Chinniah said.

After the event, first-year Michelle Mejia, a member of the UChicago Climate Action Network (UCAN) and the Southside Solidarity Network (SSN), claimed that the University is overly secretive regarding its investments.

“[This talk] made it a little clearer, but we’ll still have to do a little digging,” she said.