Tulane hires Huron Education consulting to help reduce annual deficit

Armando Marin and Daniel Fitzpatrick, Online News Editor and Associate News Editor

President Michael Fitts announced in an email Tuesday that Tulane has hired the Huron Education consulting firm to analyze university spending, improve its efficiency and reduce an annual deficit of $15-20 million.

“The decision to review our finances underscores our commitment to being good stewards of the university’s resources and ensures that we are using them wisely,” Fitts said in a message posted on Tulane’s website dedicated to this initiative.

The Huron Consulting Group is based in Chicago and has worked with more than 90 of the top 100 research universities in the United States, according to its website.

Tulane’s website states that Fitts chose Huron after speaking with administrators from peer institutions that have expressed positive experiences with the company.

Fitts has formed both budget and operational review steering committees to work alongside Huron. The budget review committee aims to create a new budget model for the university, and the operational review committee’s objectives include deciding how to better spend money based on the new model. Members of the committee include administrators, faculty, staff and students.

The review process will take place throughout the spring semester and the summer. Huron representatives will speak with the deans of all of Tulane’s schools along with representatives from all academic and administrative departments, including athletics. All departments will be scrutinized equally and in the same manner, Tulane’s website states. At the end of the process, Huron will have spoken to at least 150 staff, faculty and administrators.

Associated Student Body President Chris Halbohn, who is serving on the operational review steering committee, said he hopes to express student interests while still respecting the viewpoints and concerns of others involved.

“There are a bunch of different stakeholders at Tulane,” Halbohn said. “I hope to voice the concerns of the student body while also remembering there are other facets of the population that do need to be represented at the table.”

Moody’s Investors Service announced Friday that Tulane’s financial outlook has been raised from negative to stable. Strengths listed in the Moody’s report include an increased revenue from last fiscal year to a total revenue of $813 million, a total donor revenue of $101 million and total cash and investments on hand of $1.2 billion. Challenges include steep competition from other research universities for research grants, $35 million in athletic stadium debt and a lack of financial liquidity.

Freshman Isis Shah said she believes having an outside voice analyzing Tulane’s budget will allow for better fiscal responsibility.

“I think hiring an outside firm will be a good thing for Tulane because it will lead to more transparency in the finances and to greater productivity overall,” Shah said.  

Fitts wrote in a letter to the Tulane community on Tuesday that though he believes Tulane is in a positive financial state, this review process will improve the university by better allocating resources.

“The next few months will require patience, the willingness to embrace the possibility of change and the belief that Tulane will be stronger and better than ever,” Fitts wrote. “I am committed to this undertaking, and I am looking forward to working with all of you as we bring the process to a productive and positive conclusion.”

Fitts could not be reached for direct comment in time for this article.