Office of the President
Dr. Patrick T. Harker is the 26th president of the University of Delaware. He also serves as professor of business administration in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and professor of civil and environmental engineering in the College of Engineering.
A New Year
January 11, 2009
During the past year your University kicked off a bold strategic plan, signed partnership agreements with several Chinese universities and with Thomas Jefferson University, established the Exelon Trading Center, launched the University of Delaware Energy Institute and the Center for Public Horticulture, committed to several environmental sustainability initiatives, and had another great year in volleyball, to name just a few highlights. At the same time, 2008 will be remembered as a year when the U.S. economy entered into a recession as job growth declined, consumer spending weakened, energy and raw materials costs increased and the stock market indexes suffered double-digit declines for the year.
The University of Delaware has been impacted by this combination of slowing economic growth and credit market turmoil, but we are entering 2009 with positive momentum and a sharp focus on maintaining the fiscal health and integrity of UD as we continue on our Path to Prominence.
The University's Ongoing Commitment to Demonstrating Value
As I have stated in my recent letters to you, the current world-wide economic stress affects the University community in many ways, including concerns of students and their families about the continued affordability of a Delaware education, questions about the ability of the State of Delaware to maintain and grow its investment in the University, and uncertainty about the ability of our donor alumni and friends to sustain their support of our University. While we recognize that our path forward is ambitious, and not without uncertainties, we are and will remain steadfast in our commitment to put the success of our students first.
Through our Commitment to Delawareans we have reached out to virtually every Delaware student between grades six and twelve and their families with our message of accessibility and "Delaware First" over the past several months.
As of the end of December, the Admissions Office has logged 18,720 applications for Fall 2009 freshman admission. This is a 4.2 percent increase over the same time period last year. Notable increases over last year are among Delawareans, students of color, and applicants to the Honors Program. In addition, the Fall 2009 applicant pool appears to be even stronger than last year's or any previous year's. Average verbal and math SATs, average high school GPA and class rank of our freshman applicants are all higher than last year.
Further evidence of the value of a UD education is found in two recent publications. Today The Princeton Review named the University of Delaware one of the "Best Value Colleges for 2009." This list features 50 public and 50 private colleges and universities and is based upon institutional data, including undergraduate academics, costs and financial aid, as well as student opinion surveys collected from the fall of 2007 through the fall of 2008. In addition, SmartMoney magazine (December 17, 2008) ranks college performance based on the ratio between the cost of attending the institution and the average salary earned by a graduate. While the magazine's sample size was small, their results show that public colleges often give students a much better long-term return on their educational investment than their better-known private counterparts. According to SmartMoney's findings, the University of Delaware outperforms every Ivy League institution in the ranking.
Renewed Focus on Both Revenues and Expenses
We will continue to be vigilant in demonstrating the impact that the University has as an economic engine for the state and the region. For example, during a slowing economy, UD is a critical resource for customized training for Delaware companies and their employees. So far this fiscal year, UD's Professional and Continuing Studies has seen a 44 percent increase in revenue from customized training and development programs to local companies including ING Direct, WSFS Bank, and Wilmington Trust, as well as the State of Delaware.
In addition, last month I joined other university leaders who have signed an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama urging him to invest in higher education in general, and public higher education in specific, to rebuild America's economy. The open letter, which appeared in the December 16, 2008 issues of The New York Times, Washington Post and Boston Globe, was developed by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, an organization dedicated to the advancement of education and knowledge. I support the tenets of this letter, that "America's institutions of higher education are uniquely capable of producing the people, ideas, tools, solutions and knowledge infrastructure our economy needs to regain its momentum and to set a new trajectory."
Recent revenue forecasts by the Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council (DEFAC) project a reduction in state revenue of over $500 million for the current and upcoming year. This has a direct impact on our state funding for fiscal year 2010 and beyond. As a result of forces such as this and overall market conditions, which are out of our control and difficult to predict, the timetable for some of our strategic initiatives will be adjusted. We will delay selected actions and curtail certain activities. Notwithstanding our goal of reviewing revenue sources for the University, we are continuing to work to reduce non-essential expenditures, build reserves and increase efficiencies. Today's economic situation requires us to make hard decisions. However, if we take actions immediately to maintain a balanced budget, we will be positioned well for the future.
We are planning to provide previously committed salary increases for the coming year while maintaining our core programs and services to support our students, faculty research and continued services to the University community. Given the uncertain economic times, and after careful consideration, I have decided to take a 10 percent reduction in my base salary and variable merit pay for 2009 and both the Provost and Executive Vice President base salary and variable merit pay for 2009 will be reduced by five percent.
Continuing on Our Path to Prominence
We will continue to make measurable progress in the fulfillment of our strategic plan for the University. In the next few months we will be publicizing additional strategies and action steps on our Path to Prominence website. This will include important initiatives from each of the colleges as well as action plans based on the workings of many faculty and staff, including taskforces focused on creating a unified plan for promoting diversity for the University, developing a proposal for a University-wide Institute for the Environment, building a customized partnership to connect the U.S. Army's needs in Aberdeen, Maryland, with UD's strategic capabilities, and investigating the further expansion of our educational and research collaborations in the health sciences, among other initiatives. Each of these groups is helping us to develop priorities, and ensure that our activities directly support our mission and guiding principles. We are also continuing negotiations to purchase the Chrysler site adjacent to our Newark campus.
I am confident that the University of Delaware will continue on its path to being known as one of the premier institutions of public education in the world in 2009. During the month of January one of our alumni will be sworn in as Vice President of the United States -- an historic inauguration made more special for us because the University of Delaware Fightin' Blue Hen Marching Band will be participating in the 56th Presidential Inaugural Parade. On that same day, closer to home, I shall be proud to be the first UD president in history to serve as master of ceremonies at the governor's swearing in ceremony.
With your continued support and efforts we will be successful. I don't have to look any further than our recently completed United Way campaign for a demonstration of the focus and dedication each of you possess. Even during the challenging times we all face, more than 760 UD employees pledged $185,120 to help United Way of Delaware agencies, far surpassing our 2008 campaign goal.
Thank you on behalf of the United Way of Delaware. And thank you in advance for your tireless efforts in the pursuit of excellence in everything you do in the coming year.
Patrick T. Harker