Give the University credit – it knows how to capitalize on students’ debt.
USF has joined in the latest craze, partnering with University Financial Services, a company that consolidates student loans. Not only does USF receive the money students borrow from lenders, it also directly and indirectly – with ad revenue – benefits from the students once they leave. But there’s nothing wrong with a little vertical integration – it’s smart business. In fact, it’s the most business-like thing the University does.
The problem is, the University spends more time worrying about how to get money than worrying how it’s spent – or, in some cases, lost.
According to the Office of Audit and Compliance, the University had a net operating loss of $12 million for the 2004-05 school year. Universities may not be in the business of making money, but that doesn’t excuse their ignorance of monetary misdeeds – and USF has had its share of them.
On Apr. 13, the Oracle ran an article about a USF employee using a P-Card – a credit card for a USF business account – to charge $37,000 of personal items. In January, more than $275,000 was found in an office in the English Language Institute, three years after the Office of Audit and Compliance recommended the University shore up its cash collections to avoid situations like these.
There are criticisms that USF is run too much like a business, paying too much attention to its medical schools and athletic programs. But it takes an embarrassment for it just to act like one, for shortly after the ELI scandal, USF announced it would immediately reduce the number of cash collection units on campus.
The University is savvy when it comes to collecting students’ money and alumni gifts. It will hold huge meetings and put on big smiles when giant novelty checks are the centerpieces of countless photo ops.
So while it raises tuition and collects revenue shared with UFS from loan consolidations, USF will take all its money and deposit it into a giant bucket of funds, then go on the record to say that the money received isn’t enough. The administration will say the University is growing leaps and bounds and they need money to grow, while University audits show a lack of awareness of how it spends it.
So consider this: As the consolidation craze sets in, USF is the one telling students to think about saving money.