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January 31, 2011
To the Members of the Baruch College Community,
Academic excellence and the provision of a sound basis for future career success have always been hallmarks of a Baruch College education. We are proud to continue that tradition. Today, however, public higher education is under unprecedented economic pressure that requires us to re-think the way we operate and, in all likelihood, will force us to make substantial reductions in the College’s operating budget.
Similar to the experience nation-wide, New York State support for its public universities has been steadily declining, and cuts to the City University of New York since 2009 have exceeded $200 million. As we have been reporting since August, when I joined the College, our most recent budget gap in FY10-11 was $5 million. We were able to close that gap by imposing administrative efficiencies and by reducing operating budgets in units across the College. While these reductions were painful, we were able to avoid serious, detrimental impact to student services and academic programs.
To offset previous cuts, and in anticipation of more to come, the CUNY Board of Trustees approved a 5% tuition increase for the Spring 2011 semester. It is important to understand, however, that this increased revenue will not go into the operating budgets of the CUNY colleges. Rather, it will be used to offset expected mid-year cuts in the current fiscal year.
Earlier this month, newly elected Governor Andrew Cuomo used his State of the State Address to reinforce the extent of New York’s budget deficit and the need for urgent changes in the way that state government is run. It is expected that his draft executive budget, which is due to be released by early February, will reflect the serious budget challenges he enumerated, with significant new cuts anticipated in public higher education, primary and secondary education, healthcare and prisons. Under these circumstances, the fundamental question before us is: How can Baruch College offset declining state support without eroding the quality of our educational mission or the academic progress we have made in the past decade?
The College’s senior leadership has been monitoring this situation closely over the past six months, and a few months ago I asked Provost Jim McCarthy to lead a small group, which includes the president of the Faculty Senate, to think proactively and creatively about steps that Baruch could take in response. As I have promised, I intend to be transparent and straightforward in reporting to you on these matters. Thus, I want to describe some of the ideas that have been suggested for generating additional revenue and cutting costs. I do so both to seek your response to these ideas and to enlist your help in developing additional ideas. Indeed, for us to cope with the cuts that are likely to come, we are going to need an “all hands on deck” effort!
Weissman School chairs and faculty already took up this challenge recently and, under Dean Jeff Peck’s leadership, the School has achieved nearly $300,000 in projected savings through class and section reorganizations that minimized pedagogical impact. We are eager to extend this approach in order to gain additional cost savings and to generate new revenue. While not all ideas can be implemented quickly, we anticipate moving forward with a variety of approaches that are intended to address the imbalance between revenues and expenses. For example,
Even if we are successful in all of the above efforts, however, the reality is that — given the magnitude of the state budget reduction we are likely facing — the additional revenue generated will not be enough to offset fully the expected shortfall. Thus, we must also reorganize to gain additional operational savings wherever possible. For example,
We are confident that substantial additional savings are possible. I urge all schools and departments to review their operations, including their curricula, for the purpose of identifying additional cost-cutting efficiencies that could be implemented with minimal impact on course content and overall quality. The Provost’s Office is an excellent resource for you in these efforts. Since August, we have aggressively reduced spending in the College’s administrative areas, and we now need to extend this effort college-wide.
Lest you worry that Baruch College is an outlier within the CUNY system and the only college taking these measures, let me assure you that I am hearing the same story from all of the other CUNY senior college presidents, especially those who sit with me on the Council of Presidents’ Fiscal Affairs Committee. I also encourage you to read Chancellor Goldstein’s recent remarks delivered at the Center for Educational Innovation – Public Education Association, where, in part, he declared: “This is a time for action. This is a time for re-imagining public higher education. How can we continue to meet the critical mission of educating our country’s citizens without adequate public support? I do not pose that merely as a rhetorical question. It must be answered.”
Baruch College has experienced extraordinary academic progress during the past decade, which has earned us a growing national (and international) reputation and increasingly high rankings. We have a high-quality — and highly dedicated — faculty. Our students continue to shine locally and nationally, and this year’s entering class reflects an average combined SAT score of 1220. But the College now stands at a crossroads, with this success threatened by the severe fiscal problems afflicting the State of New York. Since my arrival as Baruch’s new president, Chancellor Goldstein and his leadership team have been helpful in making some additional resources available to the College to help us navigate through this difficult period. Going forward, however, the need is not simply to “survive” the next round of State budget reductions, although we clearly must find a way to do so in the near term. Rather, the primary challenge is to position the College to continue to improve the quality and range of its academic offerings and the quality and diversity of its students, and to identify new sources of revenue that can sustain Baruch in the face of what may well be a permanent reduction in public support.
I encourage you to discuss these matters in your department, school and administrative unit meetings and to provide the kind of thoughtful insight for which the Baruch College faculty and staff are well known. We must take advantage of the collective intelligence of the entire Baruch community if we are to navigate successfully through these troubled waters, engaging in institutional entrepreneurship and re-engineering. For my part, I shall continue to keep you informed and to discuss these matters with faculty, staff and students in multiple venues.