The Board of Trustees met on May 18 on the Purdue North Central campus in Westville. My visits to the University's various regional campuses have been very enlightening experiences for me.
Each of the campuses has a strong Purdue "feel" and a profound commitment to the University's missions. Yet each of them has its own distinct character and interacts with its community in specialized ways.
While Purdue's other regional campuses are located in busy urban centers, North Central serves a region of smaller towns and rural areas. It provides higher educational opportunities for about 3,800 students in all age groups and from a variety of backgrounds. Although it is the smallest of our campuses, it meets important needs for the people and businesses in numerous communities,
By cooperating extensively with Valparaiso University, Purdue North Central opens up a lot of opportunities. The campus also operates a highly successful degree program for inmates of the state correctional facility in Michigan City. This program has had a significant positive impact on recidivism among the prisoners.
At the May 18 meeting, Purdue's trustees tackled a very intense agenda that included approval of a conceptual budget for the 2001-2002 fiscal year. The budget includes student fee increases averaging about 7.5 percent. This will raise the cost for in-state students at West Lafayette by $292 per year, making the annual cost $4,164.
Although the increase is one of the larger ones in recent years, it still will leave Purdue's in-state fees ranked eighth among the Big Ten public universities. In fact, the $4,164 our students will pay in the next academic year is more than $200 less than the seventh-ranked institution -- Ohio State -- charged last year. That university is planning to increase its tuition by more than 9 percent for the year ahead.
What this means is that Purdue -- despite a fairly aggressive fee increase -- will slip further back -- in comparison with its peer institutions -- in the resources it has available to maintain the quality of programs. I am not interested in keeping up with other institutions' fees, but I am committed to taking Purdue to a new level of excellence, and resources are a major factor in achieving that goal.
Administrators at publicly supported institutions constantly weigh the issues of quality and access. We learn that when it comes to higher education, lower price does not necessarily mean greater value.
After coming to Purdue from Iowa State last August, I was surprised to learn that when fee revenue and state operating appropriations are combined, Purdue has fewer dollars available per student than any other institution in the Big Ten. The University's reputation and the quality of its programs are at odds with this fact. Somehow -- through careful husbanding of resources, creative management, and dedication to its missions -- Purdue has become a far better university than its budget indicates it should be.
The result is a tremendous value for the people of Indiana. While the University takes pride in this achievement, I do not believe it can beat the odds forever. It certainly will lose ground in quality if the gap between its resources and those of its peers continues to widen.
The greatest challenge is to attract and retain outstanding professors. They are the single most important factor in the quality of a university, and competition for them becomes more intense every day. The number who receive outside offers that include higher salaries and improved support for teaching and research grows every year.
The budget plan approved by the Board of Trustees will allow Purdue to provide pay increases averaging about 3.5 percent for faculty, but these raises will be allocated carefully on a merit and market basis. The budget also will address a 20 percent increase in the cost of health care benefits for employees and a 10 percent increase in the price of energy. The budget includes no increase in expenditures for supplies and expenses. In fact, reductions and reallocations will fund nearly $14 million in quality improvements. An increase of $16.9 million in financial aid will help our students meet the increase in their fees.
While this budget process has been extremely difficult, I believe the outcome is positive for our students and the people of the state. Purdue will continue to be one of America's great universities, and it will remain a tremendous value for the people of Indiana.
Another significant action by the trustees was confirmation of the appointment of Jim Bottum as vice president for information technology. Jim has been executive director of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois. He is one of the top people in this key field. He will be a tremendous addition to the Purdue team and important new asset for the state of Indiana.