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President Powers On the Issues | December 2008

I have received many inquiries from members of the University of Texas family about the impact of the economic situation on our campus.

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Dear Friends,

I have received many inquiries from members of the University of Texas family about the impact of the economic situation on our campus. While Texas is dealing with these uncertainties, we are fortunate that our state has fared better than many parts of the nation. Nonetheless, we are taking steps to respond to these conditions and build a stronger future for the University. I appreciate your concern, and I will try to keep you informed in the months ahead. In the meantime, here’s a brief report:

  • We will continue to offer scholarships and make financial aid commitments. Our Office of Student Financial Services has provisions for students whose families have experienced job losses or other economic challenges. We are doing everything we can to make sure our students can continue their education. Our financial aid programs continue to cover tuition for all Texas undergraduates whose families have income levels less than $40,000 per year.
  • The market value of our endowments is down by more than $1 billion. However, because of our conservative investment strategy, the payout on our endowments from private donors should exceed inflation during the next academic year. These endowments retain part of the investment return in good years to cover a poor return in weak markets. The Permanent University Fund, our large public endowment, is more vulnerable to market volatility. However, the payout is based on an average of the prior three years, so we will not feel the full force of the decline immediately.
  • We continue to find ways to cut expenses. Greater participation in purchasing cooperatives optimizes our buying power and saves millions of dollars each year on goods and services, including office supplies, banking services, and health care. And recent efficiency upgrades to our campus electric generation plant, combined with greater energy efficiency of our buildings, have mitigated energy costs.
  • Under the leadership of Chair Kenny Jastrow, the Campaign for Texas will move forward. The capital campaign is an eight-year effort, and after some soul searching, we decided to proceed in spite of the challenging economic outlook. After all, UT alumni came together to build some of the campus’s most cherished buildings during the Great Depression.  The Texas Union, Gregory Gymnasium, Hogg Auditorium, and Anna Hiss Gymnasium were all built with alumni donations between 1930 and 1933.
  • The present campaign is off to a good start. We have already raised $725 million of our $3 billion goal. The purpose of the campaign is to recruit the finest faculty and students, build exceptional academic and research programs, renew our aging campus, and pursue our goal to become the nation’s best public research university. I hope that if you are able, you will find your passion among our many programs and make a gift. Learn more at Campaign for Texas. Your gift will make a difference.

No one knows what the economy will do in the months ahead. I am certain of this muchthe loyalty and generosity of UT’s friends and alumni will endure.

Kim and I extend our best wishes to you and your family for the holiday season.


William Powers Jr.
The University of Texas at Austin

Read all “Powers on the Issues” from 2008.