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The University of Tulsa is an essential part of the city’s future. Tulsa World file

We were saddened by the resignation of University of Tulsa President Gerard Clancy and frightened to see the financial stress the school is facing.

Both announcements came out of a special TU trustees meeting Thursday.

Clancy was a visionary, dedicated and talented leader for TU, and he accomplished much in only four years. Under his leadership, the school developed a solid strategic plan based on data and realistic expectations, built new systems for student success, achieved steady growth in domestic freshman enrollment, set a record enrollment for the 2019 freshman class and began a difficult but necessary review of what the school does, how it does it and what it should be doing in the future.

Clancy cited health issues in his letter of resignation. The trustees have appointed Provost Janet Levit as the interim president. Levit has been the acting president since emergency surgery forced Clancy to step away from the president’s office earlier this month. Clancy plans to stay at TU, aiding in fundraising, recruitment, community outreach, teaching, research and other duties.

The trustees also gave some chilling information about TU’s financial situation. The school has been operating at a cash deficit for seven consecutive years, the trustees said. The school’s bond rating was recently downgraded by Moody’s Investment Services.

The school must obtain a positive cash flow by 2023, which will require $14 million to $20 million in expense reductions and revenue increases, the board said. The trustees set a goal of accomplishing about half of that amount during fiscal year 2021 and the balance during the subsequent year.

They also mandated an annual budget that generates sustained revenue growth and provides sufficient reinvestment.

All of this reflects the realities of private higher education in the United States today. Demographic shifts and federal immigration policies are among the dynamics forcing change. The only institutions of higher education that aren’t adapting to the new realities are the ones that don’t plan to survive for long.

TU offers a first-class education, and it is an essential part of the city’s future. We believe it can and must thrive, but not without change. Under Clancy’s leadership, the school began a difficult process of defining a sustainable future. The remaining challenge is to continue implementing that difficult process.

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