July 28, 2014

Weekly Review July 28

Weekly Review  is a summer new blog, updated every Monday, for the second half of the summer until the actual presses resume.

Moody’s downgrades University’s credit rating

Moody’s Investors Services downgraded the University’s credit rating on July 17, the latest ina series of investor doubts about the University’s credit over the past year.

This decreased credit rating reflects investors’ belief in a higher risk of a University default and will likely result in higher borrowing costs for the University.

Moody’s downgraded the University’s rating to Aa2, the third-highest rating, from Aa1, which the University had maintained since at least 2001. The downgrade follows both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s lowering of the University’s outlook on debt to negative in January.

The action is the result of the University’s high level of debt and expectations for minimal cash flow in the near future. Though the University maintains that the increased debt is a part of their strategic plan, the report pointed to weak performance in operating results profits, high costs for employee benefits such as insurance, and questionable revenue from the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). The UCMC has an Aa3 negative rating. Moody’s cited the University’s prestige, competitive admissions, successful strategic plan, fruitful fundraising, strong research programs, and self-liquidity as strengths.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Andrew Alper defended the University’s financial strategy that contributed to the downgrade in a statement released by the News Office to Crain’s Chicago Business.

“While this strategy has had a short-term negative impact on some of our financial metrics, the University’s ability to attract and retain outstanding faculty and students, the strength of its research, the quality of the educational experience, and the impact these areas have on the world has never been greater,” Alper said.

Looking ahead, Moody’s classifies the University’s credit outlook as stable, reflecting a degree of trust in the University’s strategic plan. The financial regulator advises that consistent fundraising as well as stronger operating cash flow in relation to funded debt could improve the University’s credit rating, while decreased cash flow, weak debt service coverage, and negative changes to the UCMC could decrease the rating.

 Crime and Urban Education Labs receive $10 million from Obama initiative

The University’s Crime Lab and Urban Education Lab received a combined $10 million from President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative to promote educational opportunities for young men of color. The money is part of a $100 million expansion of the program, announced July 21.

Obama originally introduced the five-year initiative, which uses no federal funding, in February with $200 million. On July 21, he announced that 60 of the country’s largest school districts are joining the initiative, and in connection the Crime Lab and Urban Education Lab received funding from the initiative. Keeper’s programs are coordinated by the Council of the Great City Schools and seek support from the nonprofit and private sectors, The New York Times reported.

The $10 million for the Crime and Urban Education Labs will expand two programs which serve youth in Chicago’s South and West sides, the University News office reported. The Youth Guidance’s Becoming A Man program is a designed to keep young teenage men of color in school and away from violence through in-school programming. The second program, Match Education, offers academic remediation. $6 million comes from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which will also support scientific studies at the labs, and $4 million comes from Chicago Public Schools.

My Brother’s Keepersets six goals to improve the educational experience of young men of color. Black and Latin American students are suspended and expelled more frequently than white students, and boys also lag behind girls, according to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights data. The milestones, aimed at all young men of color, address entering school ready to learn, reading at grade level by age eight, graduating high school and pursuing college or a career, successfully entering the workforce, and safety from violent crime.

“Museum Campus South” announces trial shuttle service

Seven mid–South Side museums part of or near the University’s campus announced on Thursday that they have partnered to create a consortium they are calling Museum Campus South. A free shuttle service will connect the museums during weekends in August.

Museum Campus South is made up of the DuSable Museum of African American History, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Oriental Institute, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, the Smart Museum of Art, and the Renaissance Society.

The free shuttle will loop between the museums—excluding the Renaissance Society, which is closed in August—from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, beginning at the DuSable Museum and running along the Midway Plaisance. The expected wait time should not exceed half an hour, and visitors who ride the shuttle will receive discounts from museum stores, according to DNAInfo. Another shuttle, run by Go Airport Express, will also make two trips back and forth between downtown hotels at the beginning and end of the day for a discounted price.

“Thousands of people visit our individual institutions every month, and we want to help visitors make the connection between us,” President and CEO of the DuSable Museum Carol L. Adams said in a statement.

The concept of a museum campus on the South Side, like Museum Campus downtown, was proposed by the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in Chicago’s Cultural Plan in 2012. The shuttle is a pilot program sponsored by Choose Chicago, a nonprofit that promotes Chicago tourism, and is expected to cost approximately $20,000. Surveys will be conducted to gauge the shuttle’s effectiveness.