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.
Our Commitment to Education and the Economy
September 8, 2011
As the University of Delaware prepares for another exciting academic year, I thank you for your support of our teaching, research and service missions. You are critically invested in our work, and it's work that affects us all, because no Delawarean is beyond the reach of this University. We're using the incredible momentum propelling UD forward to advance the interests of this state and its people.
The UD community is deeply grateful to Governor Jack Markell and the Delaware General Assembly for the support they were able to provide us in a very challenging economy. We appreciate the capital funds made available through “Building Delaware's Future Now.” The funds have expedited two high-priority construction projects that support our core teaching and research activities, and we're now in the process of putting Delawareans to work on them. In fact, the University's significant building activity is one of the largest producers of construction jobs for Delaware contractors.
Certainly, we know that the state and the University will continue to face financial challenges, and we're committed to optimizing our assets in these difficult times. We continue our efforts to ensure more informed decision-making, better stewardship of our resources and greater accountability for achieving established outcomes.
Well understanding the constrictions on state support to the University, we've focused considerable efforts on maximizing contributions from UD alumni and friends, thereby reducing our reliance on revenue generated from tuition and student fees. While the economic downturn has left most U.S. colleges facing diminished philanthropy, UD's patrons have demonstrated a strong commitment to the University, helping us fund scholarships, academic programs, enrichment opportunities, community outreach and capital priorities.
Many of these private gifts go to the University's endowment, a permanent pool of money legally restricted to be maintained intact in perpetuity, and invested to produce income. We use a portion of the investment returns according to each donor's wishes, and reinvest the remainder to grow the account and provide a hedge against the loss of purchasing power due to inflation. In this way, we preserve the endowment's principal to provide funding for future generations. Last fiscal year, endowment income provided $46 million of UD's operating budget.
The University's strength through difficult times is critically important to Delaware, because Delaware is central to the University's mission. This mutuality is part of our heritage as one of the nation's earliest land-grant universities. The land-grant pact began with the Morrill Act of 1862, through which Congress deeded federally controlled land to states for the purpose of creating colleges that would educate the “industrial classes.” Participating states essentially signed on to two commitments: making higher education useful to their citizens, and ensuring that their citizens could access it.
Nearly 150 years later, we're still focused on access; it's the cornerstone of UD's Commitment to Delawareans. Through this Commitment, we outline high school courses and grades that predict college success, and pledge to admit all Delawareans who meet these academic guidelines. We guarantee that in-state students will never compete with out-of-state students for admission, and that we'll place no limit on the number of Delawareans we enroll. We visit Delaware's middle schools and high schools and work with more than 90 community organizations statewide to make sure the state's students are thinking early about college and college readiness. Since we unveiled the academic guidelines in 2006, we've seen a significant climb in the number of students meeting them, and the 1,140 Delaware freshmen coming to Newark this fall are members of the most accomplished class in the University's history. In all, 88 percent of in-state applicants were admitted to UD this year—either to the Newark campus or to our Associate in Arts program in Georgetown, Dover or Wilmington.
Of course, academic preparation is only part of the access equation. Affordability is often a more significant barrier. And so our Commitment to Delawareans is a financial one, too. In fall 2009, we began meeting resident students' full demonstrated financial need—up to the full cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees—and capping students' debt upon graduation. Since that time, 45 percent of resident students have received financial assistance through the Commitment, and the average per-year aid package tops $14,800. Our Commitment is making college possible for scores of deserving Delaware students and alleviating the financial burden on their families.
But access isn't the end of the land-grant obligation. That obligation was broadened in the early 20th century, when the Smith-Lever Act mandated that land-grant universities serve the public with practical research, and connect citizens with resources that support community and economic development. The Act's sponsors and backers understood that strengthening a young nation's democracy and prosperity depended on opening up cloistered colleges—coaxing knowledge out of the university, into the factories and onto the farms.
This is hardly an antiquated idea. Today, most of the country's leading new industries are directly or indirectly related to university research. Last fiscal year, UD's sponsored research expenditures topped $134 million, an 11-percent increase over the year before, and more than double the expenditures of a decade ago. This growing research enterprise is fueling discovery and innovation on a scale we've never seen before, and we're leveraging that capital more effectively. We're turning our research ideas into marketable technologies and commercializing those technologies with our public and private partners.
We're also bringing small science and technology companies into the state and incubating home-grown ventures. We're brokering significant regional collaborations in sectors vital to Delaware's prosperity and creating high-skill, high-wage jobs. Working with partners like the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and the Delaware Technology Park, UD's Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships has helped create more than 6,500 direct and derived jobs in the state—jobs that have, in turn, produced $508 million in labor income.
This summer's signing of a new agreement with the Fraunhofer Center for Molecular Biotechnology in Newark is a striking example of how public/private/academic collaboration is building a base for high-growth industries in Delaware. With investment from the state, UD and Fraunhofer, the agreement enables the sharing of personnel, expertise and instrumentation, and creates a pipeline for translating University science into clinical and commercial applications. The Center, whose research focuses on using plants to fight infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders, already employs 100 people and plans to add a dozen more over the next year.
With the development of the University's Science and Technology Campus, we'll have the space—and the community—to establish many more alliances like this, to build the state's research capacity and collaborative infrastructure, to join our intellectual and capital assets with our partners' and to convert our joint capabilities into companies and jobs. Meanwhile, the students we educate will be the ones trained in these growing sectors, the ones fueling the innovation economy, the ones sustaining a thriving Delaware and investing themselves in our strength and prosperity.
There's no doubt the University will be challenged to top the excitement and achievements we enjoyed last year—a Nobel Prize winner and a Rhodes scholar (and the distinction of being one of just two U.S. universities to boast both in 2010); five doctoral programs counted among the country's best; five Fulbright scholars, as many as the nation's highest ranked universities; and a spot on U.S. News and World Report's “top 10 colleges to watch” list.
But it's a challenge we welcome. We'll continue to draw local, national and international students to UD so that we may serve Delaware as a true flagship university. We'll preserve our insistence on world-class standards to prepare these students for global competition. We'll use our reputation to attract renowned faculty and sponsor path-breaking scholarship. At the same time, we'll apply our resources and expertise to meet the needs of the state and its people—to offer Delaware students an accessible, top-quality education; to conduct lab-to-market research that betters the lives of Delawareans; to continue our legacy of committed outreach and service; and to invigorate the kind of creative community that draws people of ideas to the First State.
I thank you again for your support of UD, and I look forward to working with you this year as we advance our common goals.
Patrick T. Harker