Fr. Wild addresses student concerns

  • Marquette University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild answered students' questions at an open forum Tuesday night.
  • The other panelists were Provost John Pauly and Senior Vice President Greg Kliebhan.
  • Wild said Marquette would try to work with students who may not be able to afford to stay at Marquette due to financial troubles.
  • Wild also said the university endowment has suffered in the wake of the economic decline, but that the university is still doing well.

As the economy forces some students to question whether they can continue to afford Marquette, University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild offered support to these individuals at Tuesday night's Father Wild Forum.

"We can't solve every problem, but we can certainly try to," Wild said. "We really want to work with students and their families in these situations."

Provost John Pauly and Senior Vice President Greg Kliebhan also spoke at the forum. About 50 people attended the hour-and-a-half-long session, including about 15 members of the faculty and administration.

"We are very concerned…about your ability to find the money to be here," Kliebhan said.

Wild encouraged students whose financial situations have changed for the worse to contact the Office of Student Financial Aid.

The economy also may have an effect on the size of next year's freshmen class — which is important because 80 percent of the university's operating budget is from tuition, room and board, and fees, Kliebhan said.

Wild acknowledged that the cost of college is at the forefront of many families' minds, potentially affecting whether or not accepted students actually choose to attend Marquette.

"Families are going to have more of a debate and a tussle about what to do about college," Wild said.

He said Marquette received 17,600 applications for the next school year, which he said was a "significant" number.

"But this is February and August is a ways off," he said.

Wild said the university's endowment had dropped to $255 million. According to a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, Marquette's endowment in June 2008 was $357.3 million.

However, this is not as big an issue for Marquette as it would be for other institutions like Harvard or Yale that are very endowment-dependent, Wild said.

He also described the university's cash reserves as strong, saying Marquette is in a "healthy and good situation in that regard."

Still, Wild said the university was treading carefully to make wise money decisions.

"We are being cautious," Wild said. "We are not going to take on any more debt."

Campus developments

The panelists said no additional major campus developments are being planned, largely due to the economy.

Eckstein Hall, the new law school, and Zilber Hall, the new student services building, are currently under construction.

"We will be doing stuff, but not at the scale we are doing now," he said.

Wild said plans for a new engineering building are still being formulated, but the university is still trying to see if it can come up with enough funding.

There are also long-term plans to renovate several of the residence halls and install sprinklers in them, he said.

"Universities need to revitalize themselves every couple years," Kliebhan said.

Campus Life

Henry Thomas, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, asked if there were additional plans to turn other dining halls into "destination halls" like Café Italiano at Schroeder Hall.

No definite plans were offered, but Kliebhan said Sodexo, the university's food service provider, is constantly looking at menus, meal plan costs and ways to improve food services.

Desiree Valentine, a senior in the College of Communication, asked what could be done to increase the visibility of events across campus, such as additional space for notices outside of buildings.

Wild said MUSG had tried to place kiosks around campus for this purpose about four years ago, but the efforts never left the planning stages.

All three panelists expressed interest in seeing this issue re-examined.

Students who attended were positive about the openness of the forum.

"It's great to see administrators that are open to questions like this," said Brian Pelrine, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences and president of the Residence Hall Association. "They don't gloss over them."

Becky Goossen, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, agreed.

"I appreciate the honesty, mostly," she said.