sealPurdue Letter from the President

May, 1999

The primary objective of every land-grant institution is to offer a first-rate education at a reasonable price to a wide selection of its state's students. This combination of quality, affordability, and accessibility is at the heart of Purdue's mission, and the University strives constantly to keep the three elements in balance.

Since the adjournment of the Indiana General Assembly in late April, we have worked to develop a budget that will provide Purdue students the kind of education they seek while keeping fees as low as possible. I believe we have been successful. Although the full budget won't be completed until early July, Purdue's Board of Trustees took final action on fees and a basic budget concept at its May 21 meeting.

Under the new fee schedule, Purdue students will pay lower fees than those at all but two Big Ten universities, the exceptions being Iowa and Wisconsin. On the West Lafayette campus, the basic fee for in-state students for the 1999-2000 academic year will be $3,624. By comparison, annual fees for Michigan State's students will be more than $1,500 higher; Penn State's about $2,500 more; and the University of Michigan's about $2,900 more.

Our students also will help fund the increasing cost of technology, which greatly enhances learning but has become a serious cost issue. Computer hardware and software and the people to operate and maintain sophisticated systems are ongoing expenses. The General Assembly recognized this fact with a special allocation for technology expenses. However, the majority of the money is in the form of a non-recurring lump sum. Universities will be able to use their respective shares for capital equipment purchase and other one-time expenses but not for recurring costs such as salaries. Purdue students supplement this state funding through a technology fee, which will increase from $64 to $100 a year.

One reason we will be able to keep costs to Purdue students low while maintaining quality is that our state legislative leadership was responsive this year to the issues raised by higher education institutions, especially the need for competitive faculty salaries, teaching technology, and the repair and rehabilitation of campuses. Legislators heard our message and made a good-faith effort to address our concerns.

However, despite increases in funding and in student fees, Purdue will continue to operate with fewer resources than its peer institutions. The University's general fund budget remains the lowest in the Big Ten on a dollars-per-student basis, so we face a continuing challenge to keep our programs at the highest level. The key to excellence at a university always is people. Top-level professors are pursued aggressively throughout their careers. Well-funded institutions offer them not only high salaries, but elaborate support systems in the form of facilities, equipment, and staff. These professors, in turn, elevate the level of academic programs, and often they attract significant levels of research support.

For students, low tuition and fees are not the best value if they are offered at the expense of quality. Purdue students are very attentive to the competitive job market they will enter after graduation and almost invariably will choose to pay more if it means maintaining the excellence of programs.

For example, Purdue engineering students overwhelmingly have supported an increase in the differential fee they pay to offset the high cost of delivering their courses. They understand that what they spend now for a Purdue education will pay huge dividends in the future.

The Purdue education is a great buy for individual students and a wonderful bargain for the state of Indiana. Our job is to make sure it remains an excellent value for everybody.

At their May 21 meeting, the Board of Trustees also ratified three vice presidential appointments. Gary Isom is the new vice president for research and dean of the graduate school, and Alysa Rollock has been named vice president for human relations. Both have been serving in those positions in an interim capacity. Terry Strueh has succeeded John Huie as vice president for state relations. John is returning to faculty status after many years of exemplary service to both Purdue and the state.

Purdue awarded more than 6,200 degrees at commencement exercises on five campuses in May. Four of the ceremonies were on the West Lafayette campus, and one of these marked a very special moment for the University and for me, personally. I had the privilege of conferring the honorary degree in engineering upon Bob Jesse, one of the great figures in Purdue history. Bob has served on the Board of Trustees since 1976, including four years as chairman. He will leave the board on July 1.

He and his gracious wife, Donna, have been models of loyalty, leadership and wisdom to everyone associated with the University. Their selfless dedication and commitment to integrity have inspired all of us, and their friendship is something Jane and I will always treasure.

Summer activities are beginning at West Lafayette. This means fewer traditional students, but no break in the schedule. Conferences, maintenance projects, summer school, and visits by prospective students are some of the activities I'll talk about in future letters this summer.

Steven C. Beering