A monthly letter from President Martin C. Jischke
The Chronicle of Higher Education, a weekly newspaper that covers national university news in great depth, recently reported that most higher education institutions in America are experiencing budget problems that are eroding the quality of at least some of their programs. But the article highlighted a small number of universities that are bucking this unfortunate trend.
Purdue, I am happy to say, was one of the exceptions noted by the Chronicle. As the article pointed out, the university hired 125 faculty members this fall 56 of whom are filling new positions.
I believe there are several reasons for this success. Each of them has been crucial, and all of them will be essential in the months and years ahead:
Remarkable support from the state of Indiana. At a time when the state is experiencing a very serious revenue deficit and a bleak economic situation, the General Assembly and the governor made the courageous decision to invest in education and in future economic development. Indiana colleges and universities still trail those in neighboring states in per-student support from the state, but the current budget provided modest increases in appropriations at a time when our competitors are facing budget cuts. This gives us momentum that we can build on. Our state's leaders also decided to provide financial incentives for university research and to resume support for the 21st Century Research and Technology Fund. These are significant steps that can have long-term positive consequences for the state.
Strategic planning. Purdue's strategic plan, adopted by the Board of Trustees two years ago, not only set specific goals for the university, but also evaluated the cost of reaching those goals and identified the funding sources. The plan assumed that the state of Indiana would continue to support higher education at about the level it has in recent years. However, Purdue expected to find other funds to help us meet most of the goals. Specifically, we asked our students to pay higher fees because we believe we can provide them with a better education and give them a better value with more money.
One of the key strategic goals is the addition of 300 new full-time faculty positions in order to improve the quality of instruction and decrease the reliance on graduate teaching assistants. A second goal is to improve facilities and infrastructure through $700 million in capital improvements. We also want to increase financial aid for students, improve faculty compensation and enhance diversity. An important part of the funding for these initiatives is coming from private donations to the university.
Strong leadership by the Board of Trustees. This group of 10 men and women set the course for Purdue about four years ago with a clear-eyed evaluation of the university. They concluded that this was a great institution, strong and functioning well in all respects and well-positioned to move to an even higher level. They also decided that a carefully crafted strategic plan was the key to getting to that level. They oversaw the development of the plan, and they have stayed the course as we implemented it.
Remarkable support from alumni, friends and corporate partners. The loyalty of Purdue alumni and others in the university community is truly amazing. Purdue has touched and transformed lives for more than 130 years, and the people who have benefited from the opportunities created by education are deeply grateful. They also feel an obligation to pass those opportunities along to new generations. This is one reason the Campaign for Purdue has gotten off to such a wonderful start in its effort to raise $1.3 billion. We are approaching $800 million in that campaign, and I'm confident the success will continue.
Superlative effort by faculty staff and students. A strong work ethic is part of the fabric of the university. People at all levels expect to work hard. There also is a great tradition of getting the most from resources. I don't know if it would be possible to find a university that operates more efficiently than Purdue.
Following the report in the Chronicle, another important news organization recognized the momentum Purdue has generated. The Scientist, an international news magazine that reports on and analyzes the issues and events that affect the world of life scientists, surveyed its readers about the best places for researchers to work. Readers of The Scientist said the West Lafayette campus offers Americas best university environment for people who work in research. The next four universities by survey rank were Yale, the University of California-San Francisco, the University of Minnesota and Cornell. That puts Purdue at the head of a very impressive group.
While we still have a lot of important progress to make, I am very encouraged by this kind of recognition. It tells me that our strategic plan is working and that we are on the way to that next level!