President Richard L. McCormick
Friday, September 25, 2009
Jump to key topics and initiatives
The Recession's Impact l A Reprieve, Not a Pass | Reaffirming Our Goals | Accelerating the Business Plan |
Undergraduate Progress | Expanding International Education | Illustrating Our Goals | Carrying the Conversation Forward
Thank you, Professor Rabinowitz, and thanks to all the members of the university community for your presence this afternoon.
Let me begin by acknowledging a wonderful moment for Rutgers. Earlier this month, Scarlet Knights women's basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, in a group that included Michael Jordan. That's pretty good company, and so richly deserved for all she has meant to her teams and to the scholar-athletes she has coached and mentored. We take enormous pride in saying congratulations, Coach Stringer!
Thank you for providing this forum for sharing my plans and vision for the coming year and answering your questions. As always, I deeply appreciate that members of our boards are here today, including Board of Governors chair Bill Howard, Board of Trustees chair Mark Hershhorn, and Rutgers University Alumni Association chair Jim Rhodes. Jim, let me take this moment to applaud you and your fellow Board members for helping Rutgers to create at last an alumni program that is worthy of our great university.
Let me introduce, as I do each year at this time, our newest Rutgers leaders. We are excited not only about the experience but also about the entrepreneurial spirit they bring to their positions:
Not exactly new to her position but newly returning there after two outstanding years as interim chancellor is Margaret Marsh, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Camden. We are very fortunate to have had Margaret as chancellor and to have her back as dean. Thank you, Margaret.
Finally, I am especially pleased to welcome the new chancellor of our Camden Campus, who has already provided a vision for a campus that is deeply engaged with its community and who has spearheaded our decision to develop a School of Nursing in Camden, Dr. Wendell Pritchett.
Let me speak at the outset about a subject that cannot be avoided: the economic crisis and its effects on Rutgers and its future.
Over the past year, the world's financial industries have been in turmoil, and banks have failed. The federal government has bailed out carmakers and Wall Street firms. Unemployment has nearly reached double digits for the first time in a generation. One-third of new homeowners owe more than their house is worth. College parents are finding it difficult and sometimes impossible to keep their children in school. At Rutgers, we have seen a 20 percent increase in requests for financial aid—and a surge in room cancellations by families who can no longer afford room and board.
Across the country, as states such as New York and California have grappled with massive deficits and painful cuts, the recession is creating new realities for higher education. The State of Washington approved a 28 percent hike in tuition for its state universities over the next two years. The University of Florida cut more than 200 positions through attrition and layoffs. The University of California has furloughed employees up to 26 days, capped enrollment, and is now looking at midyear increases in student fees. Some of the nation's most distinguished private universities have seen a 25% drop in the value of their endowments. Stanford has cancelled or delayed more than $1 billion in proposed construction projects.
These impacts, while owing a great deal to the recession, are also part of a longer-term transition for higher education. New Jersey, which has seen a two-decade-long trend toward lower state funding for colleges and universities, is not unique. As recently as 1990, the state supported about 70% of the educational costs of a Rutgers student; now it is about 40%. Nationwide we have seen a vast change from the years after World War II when Americans invested heavily in colleges and universities because of the educational opportunities and economic progress they brought. Americans of that generation created a whole new kind of institution called community colleges and dramatically expanded traditional campuses like this one; they made historic commitments to student financial aid beginning with the GI Bill; and they invested deeply in America's economic preeminence through federal funding of scientific research. Elements of all these commitments persist, but the belief in public support for higher education has sharply declined. Some say this is because higher education has become a mature industry that no longer needs government subsidies. Others see a philosophical shift away from valuing the collective, social benefits of higher education and toward demanding that those who benefit directly from attending college should bear the costs. The recession has quickened the pace of this transition and has intensified serious discussions about the future direction of higher education.
Before they are finished, these discussions may lead to fundamental changes in our public colleges and universities and further distance them from the states that have supported them. Some people are asking how long traditional bricks-and-mortar facilities will remain the standard venue for delivering higher education. Others are urging three-year degrees and targeting for elimination certain schools and colleges within the universities. Others would curtail faculty research or abolish tenure. All these ideas, and more, will likely remain part of the conversation.
At Rutgers, the questions we face are very serious. Deans and directors are all grappling with budget cuts. Some employees have been laid off. We are getting by in many units only because the staff members who remain are working harder than ever. And as noted before, some families are struggling to pay tuition and fees.
But it could be so much worse. Up to this point the recession has not fundamentally changed the character of our institution. Why is this so? How has Rutgers, until now, avoided the worst shocks? Not by chance. Several factors have played a part: first, a concerted effort to find savings and efficiencies; second, the federal stimulus legislation, which enabled the State of New Jersey to keep our base budget whole for this year; third, the shared sacrifice of our faculty, staff, and administration; fourth, good management of limited resources; and fifth, our successes in expanding revenue from places other than the state.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not discounting either the historic trends or the current troubles. Rather I am calling attention to the ways Rutgers is working to surmount them, and I am summoning each of you to share in the steps that will save our university and preserve its missions. Next year's budget will likely be a lot worse, and we cannot take for granted our current relatively stable situation.
Through this combination of sacrifice and hard work, we have a reprieve, not a pass. The responsibility lies with us to make good use of the time and resources at hand—to make hard choices, to seize the best opportunities for Rutgers, and to ensure its future. The dangers are very great, but so are the possibilities.
It is worth taking another moment to review how Rutgers has gained this reprieve from catastrophe. How we did it should guide what we do next. For the past several years, hundreds of people throughout the university have worked hard to achieve efficiencies—in energy savings, such as the solar farm that now generates 10% of the electricity for the Livingston Campus; in health services; in information technologies; in purchasing; in public safety; and in shared services. These and other efficiencies are now saving Rutgers millions of dollars a year, and I thank all of you for participating in them. The next round of efficiency savings will be more difficult. They will require us to change the ways we do business and to give up some conveniences we cherish.
Our faculty and the union that represents them deserve enormous credit for agreeing to defer their raises—and I was glad to see the Star-Ledger and the Home News Tribune salute them for it. The savings from these agreements are being used to prevent what would have been devastating cuts to our essential programs of instruction and research. To my colleagues, I want to express a heartfelt thank you.
We have also practiced good management. Under the guidance of the Boards of Governors and Trustees, our vice presidents, chancellors, deans, and department chairs have made smart decisions that have kept the economic meltdown from crippling our finances and the programs they support. Within the last year, we have reshaped the university's business practices related to audits, governance, compliance, and employment contracts. Across the university, deans have made difficult decisions allocating available resources to academic programs. As a result, we have been able to add a sufficient number of courses to meet the needs of our larger student population.
Thanks also to good leadership and to the hard work of many people throughout the university, we are opening six new or renovated facilities across Rutgers: the Business School in Newark; the Student Counseling Center in New Brunswick; the Athletic and Fitness Center in Camden; the first half of the newly expanded Student Center at Livingston; the Visitor Center at Busch; and the expanded Rutgers Stadium.
Perhaps most important among the factors that have spared Rutgers, to date, from the worst effects of the economic downturn are increased revenues from key sources that provide the margin of excellence that Rutgers could otherwise not afford. Last year our faculty set a new record of $391 million in support for research, an increase of 21% over the record-setting previous year. And the Rutgers Foundation did the seemingly impossible: in a bleak economy, they reached a new high of $128.6 million in philanthropic gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations. These dollars are now supporting students, faculty, and programs such as undergraduate business education, Germanic studies, childhood studies, marine and coastal sciences, and the Rutgers Future Scholars program.
Many people at Rutgers, including many in this room, have helped to obtain these resources. You deserve our applause and admiration, and you have it. But remember, we're talking about a reprieve, not a pass. That means it is critically important to affirm clearly what our goals are so we can make the right choices to attain them. It also means doing everything we can to expand the revenues that have given us that reprieve. If we can stick to our goals and be smart about our finances, each of us will someday leave Rutgers better than we found it.
We are Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and we will fulfill our obligations to the people of our state—whether incubating businesses at the Rutgers–Camden technology campus, or performing public advocacy at the School of Law in Newark, or supporting preschools through the National Institute for Early Education Research. Particular engagement with the cities in which we are located is one of Rutgers' proudest obligations. Chancellor Steve Diner is leading initiatives in Newark to help that city boost its economy, strengthen its government, and improve its schools. Chancellor Wendell Pritchett has recently secured funding from the Annie Casey Foundation to hire a director of civic engagement who will provide leadership for advancing Rutgers–Camden's outreach within the city and the region.
We are Rutgers, keepers of the legacy of Selman Waksman, and we will continue to seek distinction in research that addresses the most demanding challenges facing humanity across the state and around the world. That means recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty—such as the over 100 new faculty we welcome this year in fields from poetry to shock wave theory—and it means investing in strategically selected fields such as climate change, energy, nutrition, human genetics and proteomics, advanced materials, transportation, childhood studies, and urban entrepreneurship.
We are Rutgers, America's eighth oldest college, and we will give our students an education that bears the imprint of learning at a major research university and readies them for leadership in a global society. Their education must be grounded first in the disciplines of the arts, sciences, social sciences, and humanities—upon which progress in every other subject depends and upon which humankind's advancement rests.
We are Rutgers, a place of diversity because social justice demands it and because everyone gets a better education alongside people who are not just like themselves. We provide opportunity for our students no matter what their economic circumstances.
We are Rutgers, with 54,000 students and 380,000 living alumni, and we will ensure that our campuses are places that reflect our dreams and our values. That means they are safe, welcoming, and attractive, and they show our ongoing commitment to spaces and facilities that enable everyone who comes here to fulfill the purposes that brought them to Rutgers.
Our commitment to these goals must not be attenuated by hard times. But to achieve our goals we must be smarter and tougher and harder working than ever. In particular, we need more of what Rutgers has accomplished already: greater efficiencies, shared sacrifice, good management, hard choices, and, above all, new revenues. I know that you are worried about how we will find the resources to achieve our goals for Rutgers—and you should be. It is not simply that state support has diminished. It is also that our ambitions are so high. We cannot possibly meet them through the state alone.
Some people have suggested that Rutgers needs a radically different business plan in order to respond to changing realities. Although it may surprise you to hear this, I do not agree with that. What we need is the accelerated evolution of the existing business plan—a plan that depends heavily on entrepreneurial vice presidents, deans, and faculty who establish programs that draw upon Rutgers' academic strengths, meet the needs of students, and generate revenue.
Last year, I encouraged the expansion of revenue-generating academic programs: executive education, continuing education, certificate programs, professional master's degrees, online and hybrid courses, and off-campus degree completion programs. These programs fill the needs of students and they improve our finances. Already we have seen results. Revenue from online and off-campus programs increased last year to $20.5 million, and we are only now emerging from infancy in these areas. We believe that within five years, revenues from such programs will grow more than threefold to $65 million. Where Rutgers has the academic capability, where there are students who want to learn what we can teach, and where there are dollars to be earned, Rutgers should establish new programs like these.
There are also other, related ways to obtain the resources we need. Enrollment should continue to rise in selected fields where demand is high—in business, in engineering, and in nursing, among others. We need to establish carefully selected differential rates of tuition in fields where they are appropriate. Here and elsewhere we have two solemn obligations that may be in conflict: the obligation to find enough money to support the achievement of Rutgers' ambitious goals and the obligation to remain affordable for our students. The only way to reconcile these obligations is by ensuring that sufficient funds are available, from every possible source, for need-based financial aid. Finally, Rutgers should carefully expand its enrollment of out-of-state and international students, thus increasing both our diversity and our resources.
Just as important, we must continue to grow private fundraising and our research support. The Rutgers Foundation is working toward a fall 2010 public launch of our major capital campaign. Rutgers faculty continue to win important new research grants, including some that are tied to the federal stimulus legislation. And I am extremely proud to say that no other university has received more IGERT training grants from the National Science Foundation than the six we have at Rutgers, an achievement that attests to the efforts of Vice President for Research Michael Pazzani, the quality of our faculty, and the excellence of our doctoral students.
Through the leadership of our entrepreneurial vice presidents, deans, and faculty, we must hasten our progress in growing these revenue streams. This is not a radical transformation. It is the accelerated evolution of the business plan we already have, a plan that is working for Rutgers and upon which the achievement of our cherished goals depends.
This approach to the future is wonderfully illustrated by the Livingston Campus. Livingston will become the hub of business and professional education for New Brunswick and Piscataway and in many respects a model for the future of Rutgers. It will include the schools of business, education, social work, and management and labor relations. It will be the center of continuing education and home to many of the revenue-generating programs we are developing. The university is aggressively pursuing the elements that will reshape Livingston: new apartment-style housing for 1,500 students; a business school building; and a hotel and conference center that will be available to all Rutgers programs. This is in addition to the student center, dining center, and landscaping projects that are already under way at Livingston. These plans and dreams are coming to fruition through Rutgers' self-determination and its entrepreneurial spirit—and without heavy reliance on Trenton to provide the funding.
Again, I want to make certain that I am not misunderstood. Even as Rutgers pursues a business plan that relies ever more heavily on revenues we generate ourselves, we will expand our efforts to obtain state support. New Jersey's colleges and universities are absolutely vital to individual opportunity, social progress, and economic prosperity. Rutgers alone channels $3.8 billion into the economy, a greater than six-to-one return on the state's investment. Together, New Jersey's colleges and universities teach more than a half-million students, employ more than 80,000 workers, purchase more than a billion dollars in goods and services, and spend more than $650 million on capital construction projects. Our institutions contribute to protecting the environment, saving lives, revitalizing our cities, and solving social problems.
We not only merit a deeper investment by the state, we need it. Consider this: The last time a higher education bond issue appeared on the ballot in New Jersey was 1988 (it passed overwhelmingly), and meanwhile there have been far too few state appropriations for college and university buildings. In the intervening decades, full-time enrollment in New Jersey colleges and universities has grown by about 70 percent, and research productivity has soared. The time has come to make the case for greater state support across all sectors of higher education, particularly for the facilities we need.
Behind all our goals and all our needs are our Rutgers students. This year's entering class is one of our largest ever, one of our most academically talented, and our most diverse. For the second year in a row, more than half of our first-year students are nonwhite, and our student leadership is equally diverse.
These men and women do amazing things. Let me mention a few by name. Samantha Glovin, a theater major at Newark, uses the visual arts to express the complexities of mental health; she is a featured artist in the nationally acclaimed GlassBooks Project, in which students create books made from glass to reflect the experiences of survivors of trauma, including self-inflicted trauma. Bryan Adams and William Brown, student veterans at Camden, asked me tough questions following last year's annual address and began a universitywide effort to increase our support for veterans. Dave Kaminsky and Shannon Harrison are members of the Coastal Ocean Observation Lab team in New Brunswick that launched the journey of RU-27, the ocean glider that is now three-quarters of the way across the Atlantic. Simon Gordonov, a biomedical engineering major and a varsity letter-winner for the Scarlet Knights in both cross country and track, earned a prestigious Goldwater Scholarship.
The accomplishments of these undergraduates are matched by those of our graduate students, who will become the next generation of scholars, professors, and scientists. Besides their own studies, they teach our undergraduates and enable the university to attract great faculty. One special graduate student will have to stand for them all: Omotayo Jolaosho, a doctoral candidate in anthropology. She has been offered six major fellowship and research grants to support her innovative work on the role of freedom songs and other protest performances in mobilizing for social change in South Africa. Omotayo and all the students I have cited represent the enormous promise of our degree candidates and the highest values we hold for Rutgers.
Two years have passed since we welcomed the first new undergraduate students to enter our reorganized New Brunswick Campus. The changes were wrenching, but they were essential to ensuring that every student, no matter where they lived, had full and equal access to all our academic programs and our services. The changes were also essential to ensuring the faculty's full responsibility for undergraduate education—from admissions requirements to the curriculum to graduation. Now, two years in, it's time to ask: What have we achieved? Did we actually improve undergraduate education?
In many areas, the answer is yes. We have unified admissions standards, enabled students to receive key services such as advising wherever they live, and created student-friendly offices of campus deans and deans of students. The number of participants in the Byrne First-Year Seminars has risen continuously, and this year more than half of all first-year students will take one. Involvement in undergraduate research is also growing, including a fivefold increase in the number of students in the Aresty Research Center for Undergraduates. Students are getting more involved in campus life and, as a result, satisfaction levels among our residential students now exceed that of most of our peer institutions. Some people had feared that with a single New Brunswick-wide admissions standard, the diversity of our student body would decline. But that has not happened; indeed our diversity is greater than ever. And students at the new Douglass Residential College, which has the most diversity of all, are earning some of the highest GPAs in New Brunswick.
But not everything is working as well as we had hoped. The university's communications with prospective undergraduates are less well coordinated than they should be, and confusion persists over why a student should enroll in the School of Arts and Sciences rather than the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, or vice versa. The new SAS core curriculum is bold and brilliant; now it must be aligned with the general education requirements established by the professional schools such as Engineering. Capstone courses remain to be established in many majors.
Perhaps most conspicuously, the university is still struggling to provide adequately for nontraditional students and their unique needs and circumstances. On a student-by-student basis, we are doing well, but in a larger sense we may not be giving our nontraditional students all the options and opportunities they need.
One group we are working hard to serve is the more than 400 veterans who have enrolled at Rutgers following their return from the United States military. They have served our nation well and bravely, and they deserve the best possible Rutgers education. In the past year, all three campuses have developed veterans services offices, advisory councils, mentoring programs, orientations, special websites, and ways to help our student veterans connect with each other. Thanks to the Camden faculty, Rutgers has now been granted membership among the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges-a designation that will ease the way to Rutgers for many veterans. I would like to see the Newark and New Brunswick faculties take up the issue of SOC membership for their campuses.
The students in our classrooms today will live deep into the 21st century, and they will live in a global society. True to our goals, Rutgers must prepare them accordingly, and our faculty, so many of whom are already engaged with nations and people around the world, are well equipped to do that. Now we must take steps to ensure that our students truly understand cultures, languages, regions, and economic influences beyond their own.
For many years, our faculty members have been collaborating globally in an astonishing range of research. Neuroscientist Gyorgy Buzsaki works with partners in France on the mechanism that triggers learning and memory formation while we sleep. Professor of women's studies and geography Joanna Regulska works with faculty in the former Soviet republic of Georgia on internally displaced persons and their struggles for survival. Anthropologist Cati Coe has been studying transnational migration in Ghana. She is one of more than 90 Rutgers faculty who are conducting research and engaged with African colleges and universities. One of them is our colleague, biology professor Emmet Dennis, who is now President of the University of Liberia. President Dennis urgently wants to establish collaborations between our universities in fields of learning that matter most to the future of his recently war-torn West African nation.
Rutgers has established dynamic, internationally focused academic programs. Global Studies on the Newark Campus is ranked among the best in the country. The School of Management and Labor Relations and the Rutgers Business School both have launched global executive master's programs. Camden offers international studies programs that include spring break in the field, with grants to defray the costs of student travel. The School of Arts and Sciences in New Brunswick has made a strong commitment to international service learning. These efforts provide the foundation for what I believe should be an even greater Rutgers presence on the international scene and for far more extensive international education for our students.
Universities that are most successful in this area incorporate a global ethos throughout their schools and programs. Rutgers is not yet there, and too few of our students graduate with real preparation for global citizenship. Within five years, we must increase dramatically the number of Rutgers students who have meaningful international exposure by the time they graduate. That exposure can come in the form of study abroad and exchange programs. It can be attained through the mastery of a language that is not one's own or through courses in international cultures. These educational goals are consistent with the new SAS curriculum in New Brunswick and with the new undergraduate curriculum that has been proposed in Newark. Global education does not have to occur abroad. It can mean engagement with communities right here in New Jersey—for example, the Haitian community in Newark or the Mexican community in New Brunswick. But our aim should be high: our students will live their lives in a global society, so we should challenge them to obtain a global perspective as they pursue their Rutgers degrees. Jersey Roots, Global Reach is not just our slogan; it is also what we want for our students.
As I prepare to close, I want to tell you about three things that have happened at Rutgers during the past year that illustrate the goals and values about which I spoke before.
The first concerns the Rutgers Future Scholars, 400 eighth- and ninth-graders from our host communities of Camden, Newark, New Brunswick, and Piscataway who are pursuing the dream of a college education. We have promised to do everything we can to help them get ready for Rutgers and have said that if they make it here, they'll go for free. Virtually all of them come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and none has a parent who graduated from college. Each of the Rutgers Future Scholars has the opportunity to shape a bright future for themselves and their families.
Last year at the end of the day on which the first group of Scholars and their parents from all four communities had come together in Piscataway for an orientation program, one girl from Camden was asked what she liked best about the day. Was it the academic program, was it meeting the president, was it the lunch? No, she said, it was the bus. When the big red Rutgers bus pulled up on her block, everyone in the neighborhood came out to see it and asked what that bus was doing there and why it came. She explained, it came for me.
My second story is about Rutgers Against Hunger, a campaign to collect and contribute food for people who need it across New Jersey, to employ our statewide network in cooperative extension, and to draw upon the university's world-class research in the fields of nutrition and food science. The project began last fall as the recession was setting in. Even in a wealthy state such as ours, there are families that do not have enough food for their children, and certainly not enough nutritious food. In 10 months, through the generosity of students, faculty, and staff, led by Leslie Fehrenbach and Larry Katz, Rutgers has collected more than 45,000 pounds of food and contributed more than $100,000 for food banks around the state. Now we are devising ways to apply our research expertise and outreach to help more families put together nutritious diets on limited budgets. This is exactly what a state university should be doing—applying its research expertise and its generosity of spirit to the needs of the communities of which it is a part.
Finally, as many of us remember with pride, on a very sunny day last April, we brought 50,000 people together on the New Brunswick Campus for Rutgers Day. It was a truly spectacular showcase for the work that Rutgers does in and outside the classroom, for our students, for the state, and for the world. Four hundred Rutgers programs gave performances, told stories, showed what they teach and how they serve. According to the survey we conducted that day, 88 percent of the visitors said they learned something new about Rutgers, and nearly all said they plan to come back next year, when Rutgers Day takes place on Saturday, April 24. I hope to see you there, and I thank everyone who helped to get this tradition off to a great start, most especially Linda Bassett. One of the best things about having goals and values like ours is that you can take great pride in sharing them with others.
These uplifting instances of what Rutgers is doing should bring us pride and even inspiration. But we cannot permit them to distract us from the huge challenges we face in securing the future of the university that did these things. They illustrate goals whose continued attainment we sorely desire but cannot just assume, for they will not be achieved without our united willingness to sacrifice, to innovate, and to make hard choices for Rutgers.
The Rutgers whose faculty research is continuously adding to the store of human wisdom and contributing solutions to the most difficult problems. The Rutgers that is giving its students rich educational opportunities from which they can attain the knowledge and the skills to thrive in a global society. The Rutgers whose community believes deeply in diversity and opportunity and will sacrifice to maintain them. The Rutgers that is proud to be The State University of New Jersey and accepts the responsibilities and even the tribulations that this designation demands. I know that each person in this room, whatever the different routes and reasons that brought you here, shares a personal belief in this Rutgers.
Today I have spent more time than usual on the subjects of revenues and business plans. If that has made some of you uncomfortable, then I have succeeded. This is the new reality of a harsh environment for higher education. Attaining our ambitious academic goals depends not only on our conviction that they are right but also on our success in obtaining the resources to fund them. And, more and more, we will have to generate those resources ourselves: our students through tuition, our faculty through grants and contracts, our vice presidents and deans through innovative and profitable academic programs, our friends and alumni through philanthropy, and all of us through difficult decisions and, yes, continued sacrifice. Remember, this year, amidst recession, we got a reprieve, but not a pass.
My remarks this afternoon are just the beginning of our conversation about tough decisions, essential priorities, and innovative thinking. As appreciative as I am for your attention today, the discussion of our future must carry far beyond this room, onto every campus, into all of our schools. So I will visit every school and college across the university in a series of forums over the course of this academic year. On each visit, I will reiterate our goals for Rutgers and lay out the issues as I see them, but mainly I want to hear from you. What are the sacrifices, hard choices, and entrepreneurial opportunities that your part of Rutgers must undertake in order to reach its goals? I want to be present for your discussions of that question.
If you believe in the goals I have shared with you today, please join with me and with each other in accepting responsibility for ensuring that future generations of Rutgers women and men will have their own opportunities to attain these goals for themselves and for their Rutgers. I know that you will do that—and I thank you.