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CJU Executive Summary of Bunsis Presentation

Published: at 12:00 PM

Over the last year and half of the pandemic, the PSU administration has failed to give an account of its decision processes regarding testing methods, quarantining procedures, salary and hiring freezes, and more. As part of the Coalition for a Just University at PSU’s efforts to hold the administration accountable, we crowd-raised the funds to hire an external financial auditor, Dr. Howard Bunsis, who performed an analysis of the current financial status of Penn State. Dr. Bunsis presented his findings Thursday, April 29, 2021 in a public meeting via Zoom.

The recording of this presentation is available on YouTube.

Key findings from this report include:

  1. Penn State has over $4 billion in reserves (slides 33-34). The vast majority of these reserves can be accessed (slide 29) and as Dr. Bunsis points out, the COVID-19 pandemic is precisely the type of event for which reserves should be used.
  2. Investments are not well managed. The University is dedicating an increasing percentage of its resources to high-risk investments that have consistently performed poorly, with returns well below “safe investments” such as S&P 500 indexed bonds (slide 23).
  3. Up until Spring 2020, revenue has been consistently higher than expenses (slides 35-36), therefore it is unclear why the University has not consistently provided raises that offset inflation. Also troubling is the moratorium on raises for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, as Pennsylvanians’ earning power has been severely impacted by COVID-19 and unemployment for the Commonwealth reached historic numbers during the pandemic.
  4. Penn State has high tuition, but also low “discount rates.” They do not award as much financial aid as peer institutions (slides 60-62).
  5. Penn State’s reported losses due to the pandemic are likely overstated and are 10-fold less than the reserves (slides 71-76).
  6. Last year, salaries for instruction and research comprised only 57% of all salaries paid by the University. This percentage has been consistently declining and compares unfavorably to almost all of Penn State’s peer institutions (slides 90-92).

Additional topics were discussed by Dr. Bunsis both during his presentation and the Q&A, and are offered in depth in both the powerpoint and the session recording and clips.

We want to thank all who contributed to the fund that allowed us to hire and bring Howard Bunsis to PSU. Dr. Bunsis is currently a Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University. He holds a PhD and MBA from the University of Chicago, a JD from Fordham Law School, and a BS from the University of Pennsylvania.

In solidarity,
The CJU/PSU Coordinating Committee