George Campbell




  • No Longer Free - Inside Higher Ed(external link) - Jan 13, 2014 - and facebook discussion related(external link)
    • George Campbell Jr.
      The source of The Cooper Union's current financial woes continues to be misstated by some members of the community. The complete set of transactions that led to the construction of the new building actually yielded a positive return to the college, because of the commercial development of one of the buildings that was vacated. That is, the commercial developments, taking into account all of the revenues generated more than covered the cost of construction of the new building. This was the intent of the financial plan, a plan approved by the board of trustees and that was achieved. The campaign goals set in 2002 demanded roughly $20 million per year, which was also achieved during the previous administration. One must look to the recent expanding budget and reduction in revenues to find the source of the problem, a problem that is not unique in higher education.
      readers, be aware -
      george campbell was president of Cooper Union during the most accelerated phase of Cooper Union's financial devastation. he has an interest in defending his record. i would urge you to consider his comments with this in mind. do not dismiss them. research them, learn about them, and come to see how they embody the issues so pervasive in how today's colleges are operated.
      yes, mr campbell, the problem is not unique in higher education; but now neither is Cooper Union.
      George Campbell Jr.
      The record of the previous administration speaks for itself. When I left Cooper Union in 2011, the endowment was over $600 million, up from under $100 million in 2001. We balanced the operating budget for the first time in decades just before the economic downturn, and the college was ranked academically at the top in its category. The more important point is that virtually all higher education administrations will encounter one crisis or another during any decade. As long as members of the current leadership continue to make futile attempts to blame the past rather than take responsibility for the current state of affairs, I fear that little progress will be made in solving the problems the college is facing.
      Andy Okuneff George Campbell Jr.
      I don't follow George. One of Jamshed Bharucha's first announcements after he took over as president of the school was that there was a huge operating deficit, and according to various reports, the overall compensation of the administration has not increased during his tenure. If during your time as President the deficit did not exist, where did it come from?
      Baruch Skeer
      Using CPI (not HEPI), the size of the non-real estate endowment was the same at the end of Dr. Campbell's presidential tenure as at the beginning. But what about that $500M he claims (repeated at least 4 times in the newspaper of record, The New York Times)? That's the change of accounting principle that took the Chrysler Building from zero (or maybe $600K) to $500M.
      Was a good real estate deal cut for the Chrysler Building under Dr. Campbell's tenure? Yes. Did they mortgage the Chrysler Building and take out a $175M loan with a $10M/year debt service under his tenure? Yes. Did they overinvest in hedge funds under his tenure, losing over $30M in the crash? Yes. Did he achieve his Capital Campaign goals? No where near. Will Dr. Campbell continue to quote the misinformation he supplied to the New York Times to make himself look good? Obviously, he can't stop himself.
      The President before him devised the Master Plan he implemented. There's always someone else to point to. High time he started looking at himself, especially the decision to build the New Academic Building during a boom and before sufficient funds had been raised to pay for it. If he'd waited, he might have raised more money, built when construction was cheap, and saved the school. But 150 year birthday parties are more important than sound financial planning and smart investing. Dr. Campbell is no hero, and he should learn to cherish his absence, not put himself purposely back into the public eye to face his role in the college's destruction.
      George Campbell Jr.
      Another rewrite of history. Mr. Skeer ignores the commercial real estate development that yielded revenues more than offsetting the $175 million loan. In addition, the comprehensive restructuring of the management of all other real estate contracts yielded a significant increase in real annual revenues that had nothing to do with a change in accounting. Moreover, the financial plan we developed never involved financing the building exclusively through philanthropy, a myth that continues to be propagated. With respect to my engagement, the truth needs to be told about the past, but as I said earlier, this discussion is an unnecessary distraction from what needs to be done today.
      Baruch Skeer
      "Was a good real estate deal cut for the Chrysler Building? Yes." But the $600M endowment figure takes the amount of money the Chrysler Building earns - in rent and in payments in lieu of taxes - and then assigns a value based upon that money. Not a bad way to value an endowment by any means. But in 2001, the endowment wasn't valued that way. If it had been, the endowment would have been worth $300M (plus or minus $50M, from memory) - so why isn't Dr. Campbell content to brag that he brought the value of the endowment from $300M to $600M? Because he tricked the New York Times into publishing the other numbers, and he's used them in letters to The Times and other publications ever since.
      That's not rewriting history, it's rewriting what Dr. Campbell keeps telling the news media. With the Consolidated Financial Statements available on-line for anyone to download, it's easy enough to fact-check. But in our Internet age, no one does, and getting the NY Times to print a correction has proved near impossible. Sorry, Dr., I give you credit for the deal, but not for your numbers. Now take your money and run.
      As to financing the buidling "exclusively through philanthropy," that's a straw man - not sure who is propagating that "myth," the key term being "exclusively." There are many versions of this story, the one I give the most credence to is that Dr. Campbell over-ruled his chief financial officer and decided to start building before a minimum had been raised. It would be nice to get either of them on the record to confirm that story, as the rest of the Cooper Union community was not in the room. In the New York Times, Cooper was criticized for building before a "name donor" was found to give $30M or so, but that's a criticism of a non-event, a hindsight opinion.
      These are distractions, what needed to be done today was for the Board to have adopted all or part of the Working Group Plan. They didn't.
  • Webb Institute still tuition-free after 125 years(external link) - Oct 24, 2013
    • "At a place like Webb, everyone is admitted on an equal footing," said George Campbell, of Manhattan, chairman of the college's board of trustees. "When you remove the financial aspect of the college conversation and everyone understands that their peers are there on the same basis — there's no questioning or doubting whether anyone belongs. There's a trust. This particular culture is very rare in higher education today."
      Campbell, a theoretical physicist who stepped down in 2011 as president of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, understands the culture well. Until last spring, when that Manhattan school's board announced it would begin to charge students on a sliding scale in fall 2014, Cooper Union was perhaps the best-known tuition-free college in the nation.
  • Letter to the Editor> Cooper Union's President Emeritus Responds(external link) - July 1, 2013
  • Cooper Union Need Not Start Charging Tuition(external link) - Nov 27, 2011
  • Cooper Union’s Finances(external link) - Nov 8, 2011



  • 2009 Donor Report(external link)
    • Quote: Cooper Union tuition last year was valued at $35,000 per student, and on the occasion of our 150th anniversary, the Board of Trustees reaffirmed our ongoing commitment to providing every admitted student with a fulltuition scholarship. The economic downturn notwithstanding, our capital campaign reached $181 million at the end of academic year 2009, supporting our academic programs, the endowment and capital projects? The new building at 41 Cooper Square and the renovation of the Foundation Building. With your ongoing and generous support, we fully expect to achieve our goal of $250 million in 2012, and we will continue meeting our commitment to the next generation of architects, artists and engineers who will shape our world.
  • The Competitive Ecosystem - Transcript from Brazil, 2007
  • Middlestates Monitoring Report - Archive, 2005


Cooper Union Builds the Future


State of The Cooper Union