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UVI Board Approves $60 Million HBCU Loan for Capital Projects

The University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees held its quarterly meeting on Saturday, June 11 on the St. Thomas campus.

The Board unanimously approved a University proposal to borrow $60 million from the Historical Black Colleges and Universities Capital Financing Program, which will be used to refund UVI's 1999A Bonds and Series 2004A Bonds and to finance a 100-bed residence hall on the St. Thomas Campus. The HBCU loan will also fund improvements to teaching laboratories, classrooms, faculty offices, and conference rooms on the Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix, and will be used to improve campus facilities that have been approved by the Building and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees.

"This is the most attractive arrangement that is available," UVI President Dr. David Hall said of the HBCU loan, adding that the municipal bond market has not been conducive to the issuance of new bonds. Interest rates on municipal bonds are now in excess of 6 percent. The HBCU loan agreement was negotiated at a rate of about 4.3 percent, which President Hall called "a significant difference" that UVI had to consider.

Board Chair Alexander Moorhead and Vice-Chair Henry "Hank" Smock were unanimously re-elected to serve one-year terms.

The Board approved a memorandum of agreement between the University of the Virgin Islands and Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC) in St. Kitts, which will minimize impediments to CFBC graduates who seek to further their education at UVI. The agreement provides for a rate reduction for CFBC graduates that is 1.75 times the tuition rate for residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A proposal to establish academic minors at the University of the Virgin Islands, which UVI Provost Dr. Karl Wright said, "will strengthen the academic portfolio at UVI," passed unanimously.

The Board's Committee on Trustees proposed that the University's current policy regarding salary information requests from news media be maintained. The UVI policy holds that pursuant to media requests, UVI releases only position and salary information - while withholding the names of employees. The proposal to maintain the existing policy that excludes employee names was approved by a vote of 10 in favor, 4 opposed and 1 abstention.

The Board of Trustees approved a revision to the current Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Operating Budget that accounts for a reduction in government appropriations/allotments by $991,912. The revised UVI Fiscal Year 2010-2011 Operating Budget projects total revenues of $49,242,914 and total expenditures and transfers of $49,232,188.

A Sexual Harassment Policy for the University of the Virgin Islands was unanimously approved by the Board, as were amendments to the bylaws of the Foundation of the University of the Virgin Islands (FUVI). A requested reassignment of FUVI-related responsibilities from UVI's vice president for Institutional Advancement to the special assistant to the president was approved.

In other business, David Zumwalt, executive director of the UVI Research and Technology Park (RTPark), called attention to the University's recent announcement of a $5 million donation by Kiril Sokoloff, the founder of 13D Research, a RTPark client.

"This is the sort of tangible outcome that we have all wanted to see materialize between the Research and Technology Park and the University," Zumwalt said. Heralding more "good news" for the RTPark, Zumwalt said production capabilities and bandwidth are increasing on St. Croix and St. Thomas, and the deadline for receipt of bids for the RTPark building process is June 27.

Provost Wright presented the University's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). While total financial aid has increased by $1.8 million over last year, and federal aid has increased 23 percent, only about 19 percent of UVI freshmen seek loans.

"Students would rather work," Dr. Wright said, prompting members of the Board to question why students don't see loans as viable investments.

UVI Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dionne Jackson reviewed donations to the University from Oct. 1, 2010 to May 15, 2011. Total contributions increased 29 percent over the same period last year. Alumni contributions increased 11 percent, with a 200 percent increase in the size of the median gift ($75).

The UVI Board of Trustees will hold its next meeting in October, on the Albert A. Sheen campus on St. Croix.