Message from President Daniels

March 2016

Dear Purdue Alumni and Friends,

As we approach Commencement and the culmination of enrollment season, we remain deeply committed to our historic mission of providing a world-class education to young people, regardless of social or economic background.

Our concern for low-income students was the impetus behind Purdue joining the University Innovation Alliance, a group of research universities dedicated to improving support services and student mentoring so that more students succeed in college and, most importantly, in their careers after they graduate.

The Alliance recently announced significant improvement in the proportion of degrees earned by low-income students, narrowing the graduation rate gap between them and their wealthier classmates. Purdue was among the leaders in raising the graduation rate during the Alliance’s first two years, one of only six universities to see an increase of more than 19 percent.

With tuition still holding steady at 2012-13 levels, and room and board costs lower, those who graduate this year will leave a Purdue that costs less than when they arrived. The same will hold true for the class of 2017. We are not aware of any other university that can make this claim.

A record amount of scholarship and grant dollars has been awarded to low-income students this year. This investment will continue, supported in part by the Ever True campaign, which includes raising additional scholarship dollars for students with financial need. A recent matching program resulted in almost $7.5 million in new scholarship endowments for Indiana students with need.

This summer, we’re welcoming our first group of students for Summer Start, a new program for students at the margins of our admissions criteria.

Summer Start will be held a few weeks before the regular fall semester and gives students, a high percentage of whom are low-income or first generation, a leg up on acclimating to campus. They will experience college classes, earn a few credits and begin to form the relationships with professors that will help them succeed down the road. This model has proven successful at setting students up for academic and life success at other institutions.  So far, 75 students have signed up for Summer Start, and we expect a total group of 100-150 students.

Update on Research and Commercialization

In January, we announced a new priority research area: the Pillars of Excellence in Life Sciences Initiative to enhance Purdue’s life sciences research and graduate education.

This $250 million multi-disciplinary investment was the result of a careful and deliberative process led by faculty at each step. A call for proposals yielded 19 recommendations from faculty across campus, and a first-stage review by faculty concluded that the life sciences are the sector where Purdue has the greatest untapped research potential. A team of faculty reviewers winnowed the list down to the top two areas for major investment: integrative neurosciences and inflammation, and immunology and infectious diseases.

This investment will support the hiring of high-profile faculty and the upgrade of lab space and instrumentation, and will enable Purdue researchers to find new treatments for diseases like cancer, malaria and multiple sclerosis, and to better understand the underlying causes of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, among a much longer list of anticipated breakthroughs.

Last month, we also announced the launch of a $10 million Startup Fund to provide deserving Purdue entrepreneurs another avenue to create and grow their businesses. The fund, which provides seed capital for startups and supports the commercialization of intellectual property at Purdue, is jointly funded by Purdue alumni and friends and the Purdue Research Foundation.

During the 2015 fiscal year, Purdue celebrated a second consecutive record-breaking year in startup creation with 40 new companies of which 25 were based on Purdue intellectual property. Our faculty and students received 178 global patents, filed 317 invention disclosures and licensed 241 new technologies, also records.  Purdue was ranked 16th worldwide for utility patent awards received, third among U.S. universities behind the California and Texas systems (I don’t think they should be allowed to lump multiple campuses together, but that’s just me!)

Purdue Northwest

The Higher Learning Commission, Purdue’s accrediting agency, has approved the merger of Purdue Calumet and Purdue North Central into a unified Purdue Northwest. This is a major final step in a long, deliberative process that will enable Purdue Northwest to welcome officially its first students for the 2016-17 academic year.

The unification of these two already strong regional campuses will allow Purdue to better serve our students in northwest Indiana, providing them with more choice in academic programs, a wider variety of online courses and more options for community engagement and professional development.

Questions from Alumni

This new section is your chance to have your questions about what’s happening at your University answered directly. Send me your questions for a future letter at purduepresident@purdue.edu.

“I’m proud of my Purdue Engineering degree and that Purdue has taken up the mission of helping to combat the national decline in engineers. With the recent rise in applications to Purdue, are we still positioning ourselves to fill the gap for more engineers globally?”

As part of the Purdue Moves initiative, Purdue will take a leadership role in answering the national call to graduate 10,000 more engineers per year, enhancing our state and national capacity for innovation, economic growth and solutions to global grand challenges. This year, we will supply more than five percent of the additional engineers called for, and our contribution will expand to eight percent once the full build-out of the program is complete. This growth is supported by the College of Engineering’s five-year plan that calls for an increase in undergraduate enrollment by 691 students, an increase in graduate student enrollment by 750 and the addition of 107 new engineering faculty.

Worldwide, Purdue is the number one destination for international students in STEM disciplines according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“Does freezing tuition affect the quality of students Purdue admits, especially given that Purdue has seen an increase in student applications this year while many other institutions have reported a decline in applications?”

Not so far. For two years running, we’ve seen a record number of applications to our freshman class. This past fall, Purdue welcomed its largest freshman class in recent history, up roughly 500 students from the previous year’s cohort, but again this class comprised our most academically prepared freshman class ever.

We will continue to pursue even higher admissions targets in coming years, while also continuing to refine and expand our student support services to improve progress and graduation rates, which are still not at the levels to which we aspire.

As students and faculty return from Spring Break on Monday and we head into the final weeks of the semester, we hope you’ll be able to join us for some of our favorite annual traditions, from the football team’s spring game and the Grand Prix race to Spring Fest and Commencement.  

Meanwhile, best wishes and Boiler Up!

Mitch Daniels
President

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