The Board of Trustees met once again this semester, this time drawing a large crowd to the Penn Stater Conference Center.
The last time the board met was Oct. 26, to give a legal subcommittee the approval of handling the lawsuits filed against the university in relation to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case.
On the agenda for the meeting was a report from the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee, which was set to talk about a student debt and financial literacy program.
Vice chair of the committee, Peter Khoury, gave the report and said that it is evident the university needs to measure the level of financial literacy amongst students.
Credit card debt for more than 20 percent of graduating seniors has reached $7,000, Khoury said, and even student loan debt has reached well above the national average.
Khoury said he has talked with other students to begin an effort to educate students on the debt crisis. He looks to have an orientation for incoming students and their parents as well as online modules for students. All of this will be complemented, he said, by a potential marketing campaign.
Assistant Vice President for Undergraduate Education and Director for Student Aid Anna Griswold said that last year 66 percent of the graduating students graduated with student loan debt. The average for Penn State is $35,101, she said, and the national average is $26,600.
Griswold also said that 80 percent of Penn State students are in need of some type of financial aid and received it.
For the fall semester, Executive Director for Undergraduate Admissions Anne Rohrbach reported that the total enrollment for all Penn State campuses and programs was 96,562 students, a slight increase from the previous year.
But, for the 2013-2014 school year, application numbers have been down. A similar statistic to 2009 – about 27,000 applications – have been received from the university thus far.
Chairwoman of the Board Karen Peetz said that one could assume that this number could be due to the past year’s events but heard rumors that other Big Ten universities are experiencing similar drops in applications.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray spoke on points of plant projects around the university.
Old Main, which was built in the late 1920s, is in need of heating system in the basement of the building, Gray said. The university also looks to renovate the restrooms, the frescoes and parts of the lobby, he said. The entire project should be completed in the fall of 2013 for a total of $11 million.
Penn State’s Rec Hall will also see changes to its venue come fall. Air conditioning will be installed on the main gymnasium floor, where several sporting events are held, by the fall semester of 2013, he said.
The West Campus Steam Plant looks to be remodeled and converted to natural gas. The conversion from coal to natural gas, Gray said, would save the university about $5 million per year and would be completed entirely by December of 2017.
Gray also mentioned the renovations for the Health and Human Development Building, located near the nearly finished Biobehavioral Health Building. Both buildings under construction will cost the university $58 million.
Also on the agenda, Associate Vice President for Finance and Corporate Controller Joe Doncsecz gave a report on the university’s financial statements. For the first time, the university’s balance sheet reached $10 billion, due to projects such as the Millennium Science Complex and the Children’s Hospital in Hershey, but the financial condition remains “sound,” he said.