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Message From The President - Baruch College

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,

  • With Dean David Birdsell’s enthusiastic support, we are actively working with other CUNY colleges that offer the Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree to secure a significant increase in the Fall 2011 MPA tuition, which is currently one of the lowest in the entire country. It is important to note that these funds will flow in their entirety to the School of Public Affairs, rather than to the College’s general treasury. Dean Birdsell intends to use the additional resources to create new graduate assistantships; to more fully fund faculty research and related travel; to establish a student travel account for conference travel and study abroad; to invest in the School’s recruitment and marketing efforts; and to improve the School’s online education efforts. Even if this increase is approved, the School of Public Affair’s MPA program, which is considered one of the better in the country, will still be far more affordable than comparable programs in Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and other surrounding states.

  • We hope to institute “academic excellence fees” for many of our Master of Science programs in all three schools — programs for which differential tuition is not possible. If approved, these fees will generate more than $1 million in additional revenue, while maintaining those programs’ high value proposition for potential students. Here as well, the additional revenue generated will flow to the School and the program.

  • We hope to expand our domestic and international executive programs and increase the enrollment of international students, all of which will also generate new revenue. With a minimum up-front investment, we believe we can increase executive education offerings with the objective of generating an additional $1 million in FY12.

  • Finally, with careful consideration and planning, and with appropriate faculty consultation, we plan to increase modestly the Baruch undergraduate enrollment, particularly in under-enrolled programs. While the precise net financial impact has yet to be determined, it could be as much as $2 million.

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 continue to explore the reorganization of Tier II distribution requirements in the General Education Program through mechanisms such as increasing class size or moving selected courses entirely online or to a hybrid format. Savings estimates range from $300,000 to $1 million per year. As previously mentioned, the Weissman School is already achieving nearly $300,000 in projected savings.

  • We are exploring the feasibility of sharing instruction in programs with low enrollment with other CUNY colleges. We are also researching the possibility of consolidating certain administrative services with other CUNY colleges, and we are undertaking administrative reorganization of selected academic support units. For example, shared staffing between the Library and BCTC will generate savings of $300,000.

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.

Sincerely,

Signature

Mitchel Wallerstein
President, Baruch College

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