sealLetter From The President

February, 1997

The Office of Manpower Studies in Purdue's School of Technology monitors trends in America's job markets. As part of an ongoing effort to estimate the future needs of business and industry and career opportunities for individuals, Dr. Kevin Shell, research associate, and Dr. J. Lisack, director emeritus, draw information from a variety of sources and project future developments on the basis of expected growth, technological change, educational trends, demographic patterns, and other factors.

One of their recent studies shows that overall employment in the United States is expected to increase by 17.7 million workers during the next decade. This figure represents an increase of 14 percent. Within those numbers, the office predicts that the greatest growth and the most opportunity will occur in the career areas that require the highest level of education. The report reads in part:

"The occupational groups (and clusters) with the largest percentage job opportunities tend to require higher educational or training levels, provide higher levels of earnings, and experience lower rates of unemployment. Moreover, occupational groups with higher average earnings also tend to require higher levels of attained education and training."

In other words, education adds up to opportunity for the individual and expansion for the economy. Meeting the needs of an increasingly dynamic economy in the years ahead will require a strong partnership among government, private industry, and education. We must begin to look at our educational system as continuum that begins to serve the individual in early childhood and continues through his or her life. The K-through-12 school system cannot develop effective curricula without a full understanding of the demands colleges and universities will place on students.

Higher education must be responsive to the needs of all sectors of society and the economy. Universities must share the knowledge they develop with the educators of children, as well as business and industry. They also must develop means of delivering educational programs efficiently to adults, not only for purposes of career advancement but also for personal fulfillment.

Purdue, with its roots deep in the land-grant tradition, has always been comfortable with this philosophy and has adapted it to the needs of today's marketplace.

Recently, the Indiana Conference on Higher Education released a study that estimates that Indiana's 41 colleges and universities have a financial impact of more than $8 billion per year on Indiana's economy. The figure is calculated on the basis of the institutions' spending, plus the household spending of students. Using a similar approach, we can estimate Purdue's contribution to the state economy at about $2.2 billion annually.

These calculations, of course, look at the institutions only as financial enterprises and do not take into account the contributions made in the form of research output, the effects of outreach to business and industry, or -- most significant -- the increased earning power and enhanced creativity imparted to people who earn their degrees.

When those things are factored into the formula, the impact of higher education becomes incalculable.

Purdue's Board of Trustees met on the last day of February at our campus in Hammond. Among their actions was a resolution asking me to delay my retirement from the presidency-- which, under university policy would be mandated in 1998 -- until the year 2000. I was deeply gratified by this expression of their confidence, and I look forward to continuing to serve the University that I love to the best of my ability.


Steven C. Beering