sealPurdue Letter from the President

April, 1999

The Indiana General Assembly adjourned April 29, after passing a budget that includes some good things for higher education and for Purdue in particular. The dialogue with legislative leaders in the months leading up to approval of the budget was excellent. It is clear that they took very seriously our messages that our state universities must maintain quality and that technology for teaching is an important new ongoing need.

By no means does the budget fund all of Purdue's needs. Students will be asked to share in the cost of providing high-quality programs. Throughout the legislative session, we stressed that funding for computer networks, hardware, software, and the staff to maintain them needs to be recurring. The budget that finally passed gives the Purdue system about $2.5 million for these purposes. This figure is about one-third of the amount requested, but the legislature's recognition that these are ongoing needs is an important first step, and we will continue to work hard on the issue in future sessions.

Some highlights of the state budget as it pertains to Purdue:

  • The capital budget includes $20.75 million in bonding authority for a new building to house visual and performing arts programs at West Lafayette and $3.55 million in cash funding to complete the Technology Building at North Central. It also provides full funding for repair and rehabilitation work on the campuses. The new building at West Lafayette will be a tremendous boost for programs in art, theatre, and dance, which have occupied antiquated barracks-style structures built as temporary housing in the late 1940s. Once those buildings are vacant, they will be demolished to create future expansion space for the School of Engineering at the northeast end of the academic campus. We will seek private support to enhance the new visual and performing arts building, turning it into an exciting complex to include theatre, gallery, and restaurant areas. I'll discuss this project in detail in a future letter.

  • Cooperative Extension Service programs that serve all 92 Indiana counties received the requested $2.8 million in additional recurring funding. This solves a tremendous problem created by reductions in federal funding, and we are very grateful for this allocation.

  • Funding for all Purdue campuses will increase 5.6 percent in the first year of the biennium and 3.7 percent in the second year. Equity adjustments for our regional campuses were only partially supported, and we will continue to work to bring these campuses up to parity with other regional sites in the state.

  • The legislature also created the Indiana Research and Technology Fund, which will invest $25 million each year of the biennium to support the creation of high-tech businesses in the state. Research -- both at universities and in the private sector -- will be the major focus of the fund, which is similar in concept to Gov. Frank O'Bannon's 21st Century Growth Fund proposal. Creation of the fund is a visionary step by the legislature. It recognizes in a significant way that education, research, job creation and economic development are interlocking initiatives. The partnerships it will create among universities, government and private industry could have historic impact on our state.

    Purdue still has some difficult financial problems to solve, but we are grateful for the thoughtful and collegial way the General Assembly handled the higher education budget this year.

    Grand Prix weekend came and went without any serious disciplinary problems on the West Lafayette campus. Student organizations, administrators, and faculty worked hard to create activities that provided alternatives to the alcohol abuse that unfortunately has become a problem on most university campuses, especially as the end of the academic year approaches. Local news media also played a positive role by raising the level of awareness in the community. Although some students and visitors were cited for alcohol-related infractions, the vast majority behaved responsibly, and we had a safe weekend.

    It may seem a little early to talk about football, but the Boilermakers already have completed spring practice, and season ticket sales are under way. Joe Tiller's team is receiving a lot of pre-season national attention, and I'm looking forward to an exciting season. One of the most encouraging developments in recent years has been a steady increase in student ticket sales.

    Since 1994, student attendance has increased steadily, thanks in part to some creative promotions and to efforts to make the purchase of tickets easier for students. Last season, student attendance at home games averaged 12,797, an increase of more than 50 percent over 1994. Early indications are that 1999 will be even better.

    Steven C. Beering