A nationally recognized accounting expert who examined Eastern’s budget said recently that the university, despite state funding cuts and other rising costs, is actually in fairly good financial health.
Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor at Eastern Michigan University who was also featured on the HBO show Real Sports where he discussed how universities spend excessively on athletics, gave a campus presentation Thursday, Nov. 3. Bunsis had been invited to campus by the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, who were interested in his take on EKU’s financial picture.
“EKU is in solid financial condition,” Bunsis said during his slide presentation. “This conclusion is based on strong annual excess cash flows and solid reserves.”
Bunsis said he prepared for his presentation by digging into the financial statements available on EKU’s website and examining other financial documents provided by university officials.
Though much of his presentation focused on how EKU could save money by reducing spending in athletics and administrative expenses, he said the university’s finances, overall, were in relatively good order.
Bunsis did note that EKU is carrying a significant amount of debt—attributed largely to recent construction projects on campus. But he added that EKU’s financial reserves were quite healthy, with enough stored away to “keep the lights on and pay everyone” for as much as six months even if revenues stopped.
After a faculty member mentioned that EKU was looking to cut a handful of academic programs ostensibly to save money, Bunsis replied that he didn’t see anything in the finances that suggested such a move was necessary.
“It is fine to review programs,” Bunsis said, “but finances should not be the reason for program cutting.”
He continued in his PowerPoint that the university is following the negative tone set by the governor about liberal arts education. The idea to cut programs is either purely political or ideological, Bunsis said.
He added that the increase in tuition costs and spending on non-academic programs (administration, athletics, etc) at all universities, has caused everyone to develop a “you want an education, you pay for it” attitude toward those who wants to attend college.
“Now is the time to focus on how difficult it is for students and their families to succeed, and more resources and efforts need to go towards student success,” Bunsis said in his PowerPoint. “The way to devote more resources to students’ success and lower tuition is to reduce administrative costs and to reduce athletic costs.”