According to the minutes for the St. Cloud State Faculty Association (SCSUFA) Budget Committee meeting of Sept. 11, 2014, the committee took up the topic of the Coborn’s Plaza lease:

Coborn’s Plaza Apartments

Jack distributed the document presented by the administration at the Budget Advisory Committee last spring showing that Coborn’s Plaza Apartments lost $6.4 million in the first four years of operation. In light of anticipated losses over $1 million per year, two mothballed dorms with a capacity of 779 students, and an $8-10 million dollar shortfall for FY15, the need to make a decision about continuing in the contract with the Wedum Foundation, the decision to leave Coborn’s Plaza needs to be made before the end of the year or the university will not be able to leave until the end of the 2025-26 academic year.

MSP (Susantha, Tony) Recommend giving notification of termination to the Wedum Foundation. (unanimous). Hopefully, the lease could be renegotiated to account for the amount of money coming in to the university. A reduction of $1 million per year in the lease payment would save a significant portion of the $8-10 million dollar shortfall without negatively affecting academic programs.

I can’t picture President Potter following the Committee’s recommendation. In his mind, admitting that he’d made a multi-million dollar mistake is admitting failure. That isn’t my opinion. That’s what President Potter said at a Meet & Confer Meeting.

To those that have watched him, they know that President Potter won’t admit that he’s failed to spend the University’s money wisely. President Potter will still insist that the Wedum apartments lease is a great decision by his administration. That defies logic. It’s one of the worst financial decisions in SCSU history. That isn’t hyperbole. I defy anyone at SCSU to name a worse financial decision. If it isn’t the worst financial decision, then it’s certainly in the top 3.

When President Potter signed the contract, he said that a survey showed a market for upscale apartments. At the time, the apartments were going to be exclusively occupied by upper classmen. The last year that they have occupancy data for, the apartments were about 70% full with asterisks.

The apartments aren’t just for upper classmen. Any SCSU student that’s able to pay the rent is eligible to rent the apartment. In fact, the apartments aren’t just for SCSU students. Students from St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC) live in the Wedum Apartments. That’s before factoring in the fact that 2 dorms on the SCSU campus have been mothballed and another dorm was remodeled.

Whoever did the survey that purportedly showed SCSU students wanted upscale apartments shouldn’t have any credibility. Building high-priced upscale apartments for college students during the Great Recession doesn’t make any sense. That’s like saying the Titanic needed a second iceberg.

Thanks to President Potter’s financial mismanagement, SCSU is facing one of the biggest budget shortfalls in MnSCU history. In light of that, the mention of the Titanic seems fitting, especially considering the fact that President Potter once served in the Coast Guard. Throw in SCSU’s sinking FYE enrollment and the Coast Guard/Titanic metaphor fits perfectly.

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