Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Harrisburg University and the Patriot News

The Patriot News has a long history of publishing fluff for HU and deleting comments that aren't favorable to HU (not just mine). They do get it right on occasion, but more often then not, they are simply serving as a platform for HU's PR department. Case in point: The Patriot -News recently published an interview with Robert Dolan and Eric Darr. It gave Darr and Dolan a nice platform to pontificate (but fodder for me since they state "facts" and figures.) I wrote a comment in response to other comments:

Even though the University has taken $50+ million of our tax money, they are a private institution and don't need to offer us any details about their finances. As a non-profit, they do need to file 990 forms though (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/) The 990s will give you an idea how they pay themselves (they pay themselves well!). You can also see their financial audits related to the bonds (http://emma.msrb.org/IssueView/IssueDetails.aspx?id=MS102267) Clearly HU is a financial disaster, Darr's prediction about "breaking even" in 18 months is about as reliable as the rest of his financial predictions (read the business plan, it's laughable.) HU needs three times the students they currently have to even have a chance at survival. Historically, they have been unable to recruit or retain students to reach those levels and they won’t as long as they keep their current leadership and trustees.

Yes, SciTech students can go to HU tuition free, although most of them elect not to (that should tell you something). The Harrisburg School District supported HU with millions of $ -- the claim was that ALL CITY students could go to college for free. That was never honored though, it's just SciTech graduates. The HSD would have been better off just paying the student’s tuition outright. HU is having a problem recruiting locally, because their academic reputation is not a good one.

HU has no significant endowment, they are tuition driven. Recruiting international students would be a great idea if they had already met their mission to serve the Commonwealth. HU needs to improve as an institution before it recruits internationally though, it can't even keep LOCAL students. HU has worse-in-class retention rates because it's a terrible institution; it clearly has little chance of retaining international students. Competent leadership could have predicted that very easily.  Real universities that recruit internationally understand that there are cultural differences and offer help and support to that end. At HU it was just another half-baked ridiculous plan to make money. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how many students (international or otherwise) are suckered into enrolling each year if they don't come back the next year. Reeling students in and spitting them out is classic behavior of a for-profit predatory institution.

It should be obvious to anyone that takes a sincere look at HU that it is nothing more than another Steve Reed financial boondoggle. They spent something like $73 million for an "academic center" that contains a total of EIGHT class rooms and a few labs. Heck, floors 3-9 are a PARKING GARAGE that the HPA owns and floors 10 and 11 were never finished. They spent $73 million for that? Now HU is spending more of our tax dollars (check out roxburynews.com) to remodel apartment buildings they don't even own. At the same time, the people of Dauphin County were forced to pay $1.5 million towards HU’s bonds. Dauphin county has also been loaning them money since 2010 to meet operating costs (which HU never paid back.) Where else would local government be paying the mortgage and operating costs for a private university besides Harrisburg? HU's leadership has been academically inept and financially irresponsible since day one -- defaulting on loans and borrowing new money to pay old debt that they couldn't pay back is nothing new to HU.  

The Patriot-News deleted the comment. 
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