Millions in college donations unused
BATON ROUGE If you or your company contributed funds to create an endowed chair or professorship at a Louisiana university, you might want to check to see if it was ever created.
A survey conducted by the Louisiana Board of Regents found that $113.1 million available to fund endowed chairs and professorships has been left unused for at least two years. That's 76 endowed chairs, valued at least $1 million each, and 263 endowed professorships, valued at least $10,000 each.
Sixty percent of that money, $67.86 million came in private donations. The remainder, $45.14 million, came from a state fund established with proceeds from an offshore oil production lawsuit.
Some chairs are valued at up to $3 million and professorships $30,000 and more.
Kerry Davidson, deputy commissioner of higher education for sponsored programs, said he and members of the Board of Regents were surprised at the findings of the survey. It led to creating new rules, including that if a campus has more than 20 percent of its endowments unfilled for two years or more, it cannot qualify for a new chair or professorship.
Davidson said the reasons for not filling the positions vary from campus to campus, and "we don't have a complete answer."
Most endowed chairs and professorships are funded by corporations to advance research, by families who want to honor deceased relatives or by individuals to honor
The donors contribute 60 percent of the cost of establishing an endowment, and the Board of Regents contributes proceeds from the Louisiana Education Quality Support Fund, when available, to pay the remaining 40 percent.
Davidson said endowed chairs can lure to campuses "eminent individuals who are engaged in research at a high level," and endowed professorships can help retain professors who are already employed.
The awards are to supplement salaries by funding research and travel to seminars. Also, there's prestige, and some of the funding can supplement a paycheck.
But university officials said it's not that easy to attract nationally recognized professors to fill chairs.
The study found that 101 endowed chairs at public and private universities across the state are empty. That's
Robert McKinney, University of Louisiana at Lafayette director of the Office of Academic Planning and Faculty Development, said universities sometimes run into problems filling
The restrictions require national searches, and the professors selected must have national recognition and ranking in their fields. Also, a full professor position must be available on campus, either by creating a new position or waiting until an existing professor retires.
Those, and other complications can get in the way, McKinney said.
"With no faculty merit increases, our salaries are not at the national average," he said. "We've had searches for chairs and identified some great candidates" but haven't been able to finalize the deals because Louisiana salaries can't compete.
"In the state, we've had a 10 percent drop in
UL-Lafayette last year focused on filling its available endowed professorships, primarily from within existing faculty, and this year "we are working on filling both" types of endowments, McKinney said.
It's advertising nationally, as the Regents guidelines require, but the university is allowing existing faculty to participate in the search.
"Do we have someone
"But we still have a problem," he said. "It would take the retirement of a full professor to create the position."
McKinney said the university is meeting with deans to develop a strategy for filling positions. Among the ideas are taking a survey to determine which faculty members are nearing retirement eligibility and determining the national rankings of its professors.
Several flaws exist in the Regents allowing only two years to fill a vacant endowment or be considered delinquent, he said.
For one, UL-Lafayette wants to compile three years' interest to assure that a fellowship can provide payment, he said. The endowment payments that go to recipients use the interest on the total contribution so the corpus remains steady.
Another problem, McKinney said, is that some contributors of professorships ask that they not be filled so they can accumulate more money in future years to convert the donations into a chair.
"They take a pool of professorships essentially to build a chair," he said.
UL-Lafayette has received funding to create 219 endowed professorships, and 79 of them have been filled.
"About half of them are to make chairs eventually," McKinney said. "We're working on filling both professorships and chairs. They're not any good if they're vacant."
UL-Lafayette is working with donors to determine what they want to do with their contributions, he said.
"Some donors are very active in the process," he said. "Some prefer to be anonymous."
Davidson said the new Regents rules take into consideration the wishes of donors in determining whether campuses are being diligent in filling vacancies.
The Regents study shows that the UL System has received funding for 75 endowed chairs, and 31 (41 percent) are currently empty. Grambling State University has filled its two chairs, Louisiana Tech has four of its 13 chairs empty, UL-Monroe has filled six of its seven chairs, UL-Lafayette has 12 of its 22 chairs empty, Northwestern State University has filled two of its three chairs, Nicholls has one of its three chairs unfilled, Southeastern Louisiana University filled one of its two chairs and McNeese has no endowed chairs.
In the LSU System, which has filled 60 percent of its 135 chairs, the Baton Rouge campus has 26 of its 65 endowed chairs empty, LSU-Shreveport has filled all four of its chairs, LSU-Alexandria has filled its one chair, LSU-Eunice has none, the LSU Health Science Center in Shreveport has filled six of its 11 chairs, the HSCNO has 20 of its 38 chairs empty, the AgCenter filled its three chairs, the Law School has one of two empty and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center has filled nine of its 11 chairs.
In the Southern University System, the Baton Rouge campus has two chairs but did not report on their status, the Law School has no chairs, SUNO has both of its chairs empty and Southern University Shreveport has none.
The campuses in the Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges and Universities1 have received funding for 95 chairs and filled all but 14. Among private campuses, Centenary has three of its 12 chairs vacant, and Louisiana College has no chair. Most of the chairs are at Tulane (32) and its medical school (31).
Copyright 2013, www.shreveporttimes.com
From: Mike Hasten, "Millions in college donations unused," The Shreveport Times, Shreveport, Louisiana, October 5, 2013, http://www.shreveporttimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013310050030, accessed 10/25/2013. Reprinted in accordance with the "fair use" provision of Title 17 U.S.C.
1The 10 component institutions are described here: Louisiana Association of Independent Colleges & Universities, http://www.laicu.org/, accessed 10/26/2013.