Expanding Horizons—and Revenues

Richard L. McCormick, President
As published in the Spring 2010 issue of Rutgers Magazine

In the decades following World War II, as young people flocked to higher education and university research became an economic engine, states like New Jersey made substantial investments in its colleges, such as new scholarship programs, increased operating aid, and bond issues for construction. Governor William Cahill would boast in 1973: “Among the several areas of state-supported public services which have shown improvement in the past few years, none has been more dramatic and enduring in its effect on the citizens of the state as those which have occurred in higher education.”

That funding pattern has changed, and Rutgers must change with it. Continuing a 20-year trend of diminishing support, the latest state budget proposal would provide the lowest dollar amount Rutgers has received from New Jersey since 1994.

Rutgers is not turning its back on Trenton or New Jersey. We are fully committed to our public mission—from job-generating research, to the robust education we provide tens of thousands of students, to the expertise we offer to businesses and communities. A nearly $4 billion contributor to the New Jersey economy, Rutgers merits state investment and will continue to seek it.

But with New Jersey strapped for cash, public universities like ours recognize an urgent need to explore and expand new sources of revenue tied to our academic missions. For example, Rutgers has become much more aggressive in pursuing research grants. Last year, we attracted nearly $400 million for critical projects such as studying the performance of our nation’s bridges, improving the treatment of battlefield injuries, and applying our expertise in discrete mathematics to homeland security. With help from the federal recovery legislation, we expect to attract even more this year. And exciting new endeavors like the Brain Health Institute, recently launched by the School of Arts and Sciences, will attract both foundation gifts and research funding.

Giving to Rutgers has also increased, thanks to the leadership of the Rutgers University Foundation and the generosity of alumni and friends. Although we have felt the effects of the recession in 2010, private gifts topped $100 million for three years in a row. Equally important, entrepreneurial deans, vice presidents, and professors have begun to augment our finances in ways that accentuate our academic strengths. For instance, online courses and off-campus degree completion programs now generate more than $20 million and will, we project, more than triple over the next five years.

Within many of our schools, we are bringing academically rich programs to new audiences—and generating needed revenue. The School of Public Affairs and Administration has developed an executive program to train Newark city employees in public administration. Mason Gross School of the Arts operates an extension division for high school students and adults. The Center for Management Development, a joint venture of the School of Management and Labor Relations and Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick, has created mini-M.B.A.s in subjects such as business essentials and strategic health care management, reaching 2,800 students and generating more than $7 million.

Rutgers’ history has been one of adaptation and progress, from our days as a small, private men’s college to our status among the nation’s leading public research universities. It is time to adapt, and advance, once more.