University Board of Visitors Finance Committee met Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. to approve the spending plan for the Center for Politics $10 million renovation and the negotiation of a new student health insurance plan. The Committee also discussed the market value and performance of the University’s endowment and recognized the retirement of Virginia Evans, University vice president and chief information officer.
The Board approved the operational and spending plan for the Center for Politics 10,000 square-foot addition and renovation, landscape improvements, as well as new media and furniture. This project will be completed in roughly two years and will involve using funds the Center has received from philanthropy as well as its quasi-endowments.
Since February 2007, the University has paired with Chickering Claims Administrators Inc. — which has since merged with Aetna Health Insurance — to provide a health insurance plan for all students at the University.
The University is now negotiating a new, comparable health insurance contract because it has outlived the useful terms of the current one. The Board is required to authorize any contract in excess of $5 million per year, and the new contract is expected to cost $19 million a year in University-paid premiums. During the meeting, the Committee gave permission to J.J. Davis, University executive vice president and chief operating officer to execute this contract once a new insurance vendor is found.
“I am not at liberty yet this morning to say who the successful vendor will be,” Davis said. “Although, I know there was a meeting late last evening with the student health insurance advisory group, and I expect within the next several days we will make that award.”
Davis also recognized Virginia Evans, who stepped down from her role as Vice President and Chief Information Officer Dec. 31. In 2015, she led a team that responded to a serious cyber attack against the University. In 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, helped shift around 4,000 classes from in-person to online.
“She is absolutely one of the pillars of why I believed coming to U.Va. would be just the right move for both me and my family,” Davis said.
The Virginia General Assembly adjourned Feb. 25, 2023 without completing a substantial finalized budget for the University’s fiscal year 2024. Instead, the Assembly approved a “stopgap” or “skinny budget” to address issues unrelated to higher education. The final budget is expected for the Finance Committee’s consideration no later than the beginning of June.
“No matter what, we have a statutory obligation, though, to bring back a finalized U.Va. budget for your consideration at the beginning of June,” Davis said. “As such, President Jim Ryan and the leadership team here will be working behind the scenes in the coming weeks and months.”
Robert Durden, University of Virginia Investment Management Company chief executive officer, gave a report on the status of the University’s endowment, specifically on its rate of return. He said that the returns have remained mostly positive, often outperforming the University’s return objectives.
“Over the longer term you can see relative to the objectives that we just discussed that we've done well,” Durden said. “Again, we've needed to generate an 8 percent return [and] over three, five, ten and twenty years we've generated an excess of 10 percent,” said Durden.
Several questions emerged about the role of the University’s endowment and how it is subdivided among various organizations— a topic the committee plans to discuss, along with the finalized budget, at their meeting in early June.
“We're happy to bring this back in June to have a really thoughtful conversation about what is the role of the endowment,” Wagner said. “What are relative sources that sit within UVIMCO and the purposes of said funds.”
The Finance Committee will reconvene again during the June meeting of the Board.