Trustees: Building blocks for UofL growth now challenge for holding steady

Trustees: Building blocks for UofL growth now challenge for holding steady

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Research in medicine and engineering has fueled much of the growth in programs and prestige at the University of Louisville.

But, troubles keeping the money flowing are a big reason that Moody's Investor's Service has downgraded UofL's long-term debt rating, Trustees reconfirmed Tuesday.

Moody's cited issues with operating performance, weaker-than-expected returns on endowment investments from the UofL Foundation, reductions in state allocations and a decline in the number of federal gr ants and the dollars awarded in each as reasons.

"We can't expect to be a Georgia Tech," Trustee Bruce Henderson said in response to a presentation stating UofL had advanced from #146 to #101 in research funding for public universities in the ten years prior to the Great Recession.

Trustee Craig Greenberg referred to evaluations of the foundation's accounting and principles as "eye opening," especially operational expenses incurred in what could be considered courting of donors.

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"We need to get those resolved,"Greenberg told reporters afterward.

Several months ago, Chairman Dr. Larry Benz received board authorization to sue the foundation, for failing to turn over financial records trustees had requested. Benz began backing off after Dr. James Ramsey resigned as President of the University and of the Foundation Board, and new leadership agreed to an outside forensic-level audit of the foundation's expenditures and operating procedures.

"The foundation's role becomes more important than ever, going forward," Benz said, referencing Gov. Matt Bevin's mandated 4.5% cuts in state appropriations to universities this current fiscal year.

Among elements that Benz believes deserve re-evaluation: the foundation's large real estate portfolio and performance of other investments.

"Not saying we should or shouldn't be in those (properties), but we need transparency," Benz said.

The foundation's Board of Directors was set to meet Tuesday afternoon.

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