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Remarks to the State Budget Committee - September 8, 2011

Good afternoon. I am France Córdova, president of Purdue University.

Thank you to Chairman Espich and the other esteemed members of the State Budget Committee for inviting me to today's meeting.

I want to thank this committee -- and the state legislature -- for your ongoing support of Purdue, particularly in this challenging economic climate.

I would like to thank the Commission for Higher Education for its ongoing support and its considered approach to setting tuition guidance.

We were asked to join the committee today for a discussion of tuition increases.

I'd like to acknowledge Purdue Trustee and Vice Chair Tom Spurgeon, who has joined me today. Tom is a Columbus, Indiana, native and Purdue graduate. He is a successful entrepreneur, and has a long history of service to Purdue. He was named a Trustee in 2005.

Also with me is Al Diaz, Purdue Executive Vice President for Business and Finance, and Treasurer.

Today, I want to talk to you about where we are in terms of our current tuition and budget, and our plans for the future.

Purdue is committed to offering a high-quality education. This state needs a university that is attractive to the best and brightest students. This year nearly half of the very best Indiana high school students chose to study at Purdue. These freshmen have A and A-plus GPAs and top SAT scores.

We are committed to partnering with government and business to serve Indiana by delivering talented, educated leaders for the workforce of today and tomorrow. Purdue graduates ranked fourth in a Wall Street Journal survey of corporate recruiters and seventh in SmartMoney magazine's college "payback" survey.

We are committed to growing Indiana businesses for the future. Almost 90 percent of the Indiana students who graduate from Purdue stay in Indiana.

It is our research mission that sets Purdue apart from other institutions and helps us achieve these goals.

We know that 51 percent of our May graduates participated in undergraduate research and one-third said that was the single most important experience contributing to their academic success. These are the students who will make the new discoveries and lead the industries that transform our state and our world.

Our professors bring their passion for discovery to the classroom, inspiring these students, and they bring their discoveries to the state, benefiting existing industries and creating and attracting new companies.

We know that you value our research mission and its benefit to the state. We appreciate the performance funding that enables us to accomplish our goals in research and economic development.

I thought it might be helpful to our discussion today to review the steps we took in designing our budget for the current biennium. We pledged to keep tuition and fee increases to a minimum, ensure the high quality of a Purdue education and the value of our degree. We made a significant effort to communicate frequently with State legislators and the Commission for Higher Education about our budget throughout the budget-setting process.

In our budget request:

  • Purdue followed budget guidance from the State Budget Committee and the Commission.
  • Purdue submitted a modest budget proposal that was flat except for performance incentives for research support and student-based performance measures (per instructions issued by the Commission and the State Budget Agency).
  • Purdue received a cut of 3% in its operating appropriations ($7.3 million at the West Lafayette campus).
  • The new appropriation of $233.8 million is 10% below the highest level in FY 2009 ($262 million) and is close to the FY 2004 level ($233 million).

Throughout the process we said if Purdue's budget request was met, tuition and fees would not be increased, except for a $91 fee to fund improvements to the our Student Fitness and Wellness Center. The student fitness and wellness fee was endorsed by Purdue Student Government, approved by state legislators, and acknowledged as an appropriate special circumstance by the Commission.

In the end, Purdue's request was not fully funded, and our Trustees approved an increase in tuition (within the Commission's recommendation) to maintain the quality of the university that we are today and to continue working toward the university we strive to be -- a pre-eminent research university that provides an excellent public education for our students, a degree with true value in the marketplace, and discoveries that transform Indiana's economy.

  • The new rates for West Lafayette represent a base increase of 3.5 percent, which is in line with the guidelines issued by the Commission. The Commission also acknowledged the $91 (1 percent) student fitness and wellness fee as an appropriate special circumstance that already had state approval.
  • Our regional campus tuition rates increased 2.5 percent, also within Commission guidelines.

We do recognize that State revenues are under stress, and that the pocket books of our students and their families are under pressure.

Continued dependence on increased tuition and fees at the rates we've seen over the past decade is not sustainable. We cannot continue with "business as usual."

Purdue has been proactive in containing costs, while working to chart a responsible financial course.

  • We began with our Sustaining New Synergies initiative for cost cutting and cost containment. It helped us save $67 million. It included budget reductions to every college and administrative office, health-care cost reductions, energy savings, early retirement incentive program savings, information technology savings, and it constrained growth in salaries. Many of you have heard details on this effort over the past year.
  • Also, we started several months ago on a long-term plan that we call the Decadal Funding Plan. It will identify new sources of revenue designed to enhance all aspects of the University's mission and reduce our reliance on tuition and fees and state appropriations.

This effort is a significant undertaking, one that hasn't been attempted in our history.

Over the last several months, we have engaged groups both on and off campus and listened to and analyzed multiple proposals in order to come up with three big revenue-generating ideas that we are moving forward.

  • One set of ideas is focused on how to make Purdue more efficient and effective, and continue cost containment initiatives. We already use our buildings and infrastructure efficiently during the regular academic year, and we are looking to greatly expand that use into the summer months. We started an Academic Program Assessment that will review all of our courses. It will ensure we are effectively funding our strongest programs and those of particular value to Indiana.
  • Second, we have a set of innovation activities that will rev up our engine for commercialization and entrepreneurship, bridging the gap between fundamental research and the creation of products and companies that advance Indiana's economy. We believe that a new combination of incentives and investments can move more Purdue research into the marketplace faster.
  • Third, we will extend our educational offerings with additional online courses and new partnerships with industry and businesses for cutting-edge training and post-graduate professional education. We call this Purdue's Extended Campus and it will be a profit center.

We are developing business plans for each of these sets of revenue-generating activities and will leverage these efforts with increased private giving, innovations in information technology and investments from the business community.

This is a dynamic plan, designed to move from a two-year outlook and take the decadal long view. If we are successful, Purdue will be less dependent on state appropriations in the future and able to keep tuition increases to a minimum.

I believe we share the goal to fulfill Purdue's land-grant mission and be the University of which the state of Indiana can be proud.