The University Record, September 25, 2000

Bollinger reviews good things happening on campus

Editor's note: The letter below was sent by President Lee C. Bollinger to the University community Sept. 21. It reflects on the many and varied good things that have been happening at the University over the past several months.


At the Regents meeting this week, I will report on several pieces of good--indeed, remarkably good--news about the financial health of the University over this past academic year. I thought it would be helpful to pass them along briefly in this form as well. I want to say at the outset that these achievements are the result of many people over many years working hard on behalf of the institution.

Here are the principal items:

Research awards for 1999-2000 rose from $450 million to $650 million. By any standard, this is extraordinary. The increase was spread across the University and was not merely the consequence of a few unusually large grants. It is a testament to the capacity of the faculty to compete successfully in peer-reviewed settings, and to our staff's focus on supporting faculty and students with increasingly complex research initiatives.

The University's endowment has generated a return of more than 40 percent for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2000. This is the second year in a row that our investment portfolio's performance has been in the top quartile of all endowments in the country, and it generates crucial support for research, scholarship, and teaching.

This past July, Moody's upgraded the University to an Aaa rating. This is the highest rating that can be given, and it certifies the financial strength of the University. Two things should be noted about this. First, only a handful of colleges and universities in the country have received this rating, and the University of Michigan and the University of Texas are the first public universities ever to receive it.

Second, the significance of the Aaa rating is that it both saves the University money by lowering the interest we must pay on our financial obligations, and, more important, it reflects the highest confidence in our financial practices and stability.

The amount of private donations actually received by the University during this past academic year reached a record high of $230.6 million. The most we had ever raised in a single year before that was approximately $180 million.

The State appropriation for this year, if approved by the Legislature this fall, will rise by 5.7 percent. That permitted us to maintain a tuition increase at the undergraduate level of 2.8 percent. Tuition increases over the past several years have been the lowest in decades because of this crucial state support. Above all, we are pleased to have excellent relations with the State.

These are, of course, only some of the many, many good things happening throughout the University. Even focusing just on financial matters, there is so much more to say. As we know, often the best news is the absence of bad news. A prime example is the Health System, which, through great dedication in a treacherous financial era for health care, has continued to yield a balanced budget while providing outstanding patient care.

Passing along good news like this runs the risk of raising unrealistic expectations for the future and of upsetting some by omitting other worthy achievements (especially beyond the financial side of things). That acknowledged, we should enjoy the moment and a sense of important progress.

On other fronts, we enjoyed wonderful events in the last few weeks, including the conferring of an honorary degree on Vaclav Havel and the naming of the School of Public Policy for President Gerald R. Ford. We look forward to welcoming playwright, and U-M alumnus, Arthur Miller to campus during the symposium planned in his honor October 26-28, 2000.

Also, we are in the final stages of the search for the director of the Life Sciences Institute. At this Regents' meeting, we will be seeking approval of a science teaching building on the Palmer Drive site-the last in the complex of life sciences buildings in that area of the campus. Excavation already has begun at the site for the new 1,025-space parking deck, the Life Sciences Institute building, and a multipurpose commons building.

We can expect reports this fall from the two University-wide commissions under way: The President's Information Revolution Commission (chaired by Deans Stephen Director and John King) and the Undergraduate Experience Commission (chaired by Provost Nancy Cantor). On those general subjects, I expect to have other announcements over the next month or so.

This academic year is off to an excellent start. I express my gratitude for everyone's efforts.