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.
Joint Finance Committee Hearing
Senate Chamber, Legislative Hall
February 14, 2011
Tough Budget Decisions
I want to begin my remarks today by acknowledging the tremendously difficult budget decisions that had to be made in an economic environment this challenging. We understand the state’s fiscal constraints, and we understand that budget cuts have been broadly applied, affecting agencies and programs that are so very important to Delaware and to Delawareans.
We know, too, that our financial outlook could be far worse, as it is in states across the nation. If a 10-percent budget cut goes through in North Carolina, the UNC system could lose 2,000 jobs—half of them faculty. The state’s now considering a 15-percent cut.
A $10 billion deficit in New York has the SUNY and CUNY systems facing a 10-percent reduction, after absorbing cuts totaling nearly 30 percent over the last three years. Some students considered the reductions so severe, they actually protested in favor of a tuition hike.
A two-year budget plan floated in Texas would cost the state’s colleges and universities $772 million—a nearly 8-percent reduction in State support. Students’ financial aid programs would take some of the biggest hits.
And emblematic of higher education’s financial challenges, there’s California. Governor Jerry Brown just proposed $1.4 billion in cuts to the state’s universities. The two four-year systems would lose about 18 percent of their funding—on top of the cuts that have crippled them over the last few years.
The Cost-Benefit of Innovative Thinking
It’s fortunate that higher education in Delaware does not find itself in circumstances this grim. We are committed to working collaboratively with our colleagues at Delaware State University and Delaware Tech to continue to provide Delawareans a top-quality education.
And I can assure you that at UD we’ll be successful this year, inasmuch as a balanced budget implies success. But we’ll go further than that. We’ll go about examining our processes and reorganizing in a way that enables us to realize the significant cost savings of truly doing things differently. We’re beginning a process now to determine what we’ll have to do without. That process will last 5–6 months, maybe longer. Given the tough decisions we’ll have to make, we do appreciate the Governor giving us flexibility in our special lines.
Throughout this process, we’ll continue our focus on maximizing operational efficiencies. That focus has already paid dividends. We’ve consolidated administrative departments in advance of these cuts—merging the Office of Budget & Finance with the Office of Administration, and merging Auxiliary Services with Facilities. We’ve reengineered our operations in Student Financial Services—the office that administers financial aid. The results have been remarkable: faster, clearer communication with students and parents; significantly better service to them; and, not surprisingly, dramatically higher customer satisfaction.
Our Priorities Remain
Like every agency and institution coming before you, we’d prefer to see no reduction in our appropriation. With the cuts to State aid, alongside an $8.9 million stimulus loss, we do consider our operations budget hard hit. And if the economy were to bounce back, we’d like to be restored as other programs and agencies would be.
But no matter what difficult decisions the State needs to make this year—and I know there are many—we remain absolutely committed to moving forward on our priorities and serving the State and its people well.
Commitment to Delawareans
One driving priority is our Commitment to Delawareans. This fall, we enrolled nearly 1,200 Delaware freshmen at the Newark campus—more than 35 percent of the incoming freshman class, a nearly 4-percentage-point climb over last year. These Delawareans are part of the most academically accomplished class in UD’s history. In GPAs, SATs, and class ranks, 2010’s incoming students outpaced every class before them.
In all, 89 percent of in-state applicants were offered admission—either to the Newark campus or to our Associate in Arts program at Georgetown, Dover, or Wilmington.
Our success in admitting and enrolling in-state students is clearly a factor of this Commitment to Delawareans. The academic component of the program better prepares in-state students for the UD curriculum by outlining a competitive high school course load and expected course grades. If students complete this high school roadmap, they’re in. And the aid component—which kicked in last year—opens their access financially. It’s our pledge to meet all in-state students’ full demonstrated financial need and to cap their debt upon graduation.
Given the still-struggling economy, our pledge has made college possible for scores of deserving Delaware students and eased the financial burden on their families.
In FY12, we expect that about 1,950 in-state students will share in the funding made available through the Commitment to Delawareans. That number includes nearly 60 percent of the 1,150 Delaware freshmen we expect to enroll this fall.
In total, our projected expenditure for this program will increase to approximately $9 million this year. Based on current estimates, funding for our Commitment to Delawareans is about $3 million for each class. So the expenditure will increase again next year when we get to a full four years of funding established.
There’s no doubt this is a significant dedication of funds: A full quarter of our tuition revenue goes directly to financial aid and, next year, the cost of providing that aid to Delaware freshmen will exceed what we project to be an incremental tuition increase.
Science & Technology Campus
Another priority is development of UD’s Science & Technology Campus, formerly the Newark Chrysler Assembly Plant. The property is critical to the University’s strength and growth. In research innovation, in the cultivation of entrepreneurship, in knowledge-based partnerships—the Science and Technology Campus is our way forward. It’s where we’ll join our intellectual and capital assets. And where we’ll develop the technologies that create new industries that grow new jobs that power a new economy.
Energy & Environment
We’ll locate a lot of our energy and environmental research there. We’ve got such deep expertise in environmental science and renewable energy: solar, magnets, vehicle-to-grid, composites, catalysis, hydrogen storage. We can help build a real infrastructure for the clean-energy economy right here in Delaware, and make the First State the East Coast leader in clean-energy production.
Information & Defense Tech
The Science and Tech Campus will house our partnership with the U.S. Army’s Research, Development, and Engineering Command at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The partnership has already yielded 18 joint research projects in emerging information and defense technologies, and we have opportunities for significant R&D growth.
Part of the property will be dedicated to health sciences, anchored by the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, our partnership with Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care, and Nemours. The Alliance is catalyzing collaborative biomedical research and biotech development; coordinated biosciences education; and better healthcare delivery.
Before this Committee, I’ve talked about the Jefferson Campus for Healthcare Education, which will be a part of the property’s health sciences section. The Jefferson campus will be home to the school’s 3rd- and 4th-year students—the medical, pharmacy, nursing, occupational and physical therapy students who will do their clinical rotations right here in Delaware.
I’ve noted how important this is, because it will enlarge the state’s pipeline of medical personnel, many of whom will stay here long after their training is over. But equally important is the State’s continued support of the Delaware Institute for Medical Education and Research. DIMER reserves 20 seats at Jefferson Medical College for Delaware residents, making the program Delaware’s de facto medical school.
And keeping it healthy is more than an economic imperative. It’s a public health issue. We’re putting rural Delawareans—Southern Delawareans—at risk if we don’t do everything we can to grow the number of health professionals serving them.
A Remarkable Year
UD is starting its spring semester on the heels of a remarkable fall.
UD Professor Emeritus Richard Heck shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his groundbreaking work in carbon-atom bonding. His research has transformed organic synthesis and, in the process, revolutionized a range of industries—from pharmaceuticals to electronics.
Meanwhile, UD senior Matt Watters was among 32 U.S. students to win a Rhodes Scholarship. Matt’s a neuroscience major/political science minor who’ll be studying global health science at Oxford.
UD was one of only two U.S. universities to claim both the Nobel and the Rhodes in 2010. The other was MIT.
Five of our faculty won Fulbrights in 2010, placing UD among the most awarded universities nationwide—tied with Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, and UC Davis. The National Research Council ranked five of our doctoral programs among the country’s best. And in a recent U.S. News survey of college presidents and provosts, UD was named a top-10 “up-and-coming” university.
We have more completed applications for the incoming freshman class than we’ve ever had by this date; completed applications are up 3.6 percent. And applications among the strongest students—in terms of grades and SAT scores—are up as well.
At UD, we know that despite the nation’s anemic recovery—despite a State budget challenged by many worthy priorities and too few resources—we can continue this momentum. With our inventive capacity, our strategic partnerships, and our entrepreneurial ethic, we can continue to be a powerful economic engine for the State and the region. We can and will continue to serve Delaware and its citizens.
I’m happy to take your questions.