Spring seems to be reaching the North Country. The birds have returned, the flowers are coming up, and we are in the final push toward the end of the semester.
In Albany, both the Assembly and the Senate have passed preliminary budget resolutions. The two documents differ rather significantly from one another as far as SUNY is concerned. The Assembly has voted not to consider most of the key aspects of the Public Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act within the context of the budget, but to consider it as a separate piece of legislation after the budget is passed. The Senate, on the other hand, has incorporated some aspects of the PHEEIA into their budget resolution. In particular the Senate has agreed to a rational tuition plan with annual tuition increases capped at 1.5 times the Higher Education Price Index, down from the 2.5 times proposed. The Senate has given relief regarding public-private partnerships and land sales and purchase to only Stony Brook and University at Buffalo. There is some talk of including Albany and Binghamton into that provision, but the comprehensive campuses remain excluded. Neither house is willing to take the SUNY tuition and fees out of the State budgeting process nor have they indicated how they would handle approximately $30 million that the Governor projected would come from concessions from SUNY unions as part of a budget reduction. If it were passed on to campuses as an additional cut, it could mean another $600,000 or so reduction to SUNY Potsdam.
Despite this state of flux, we continue to work to plan for next year (2010-2011). In December I announced our budget blueprint. You will recall that it is a plan and not a budget. Given the enormous size of the cuts we are confronting, we need to get a preliminary plan in place in order to allow units to begin planning for next year. The cuts have been significant to many units. As a result, the Cabinet and I examined critical areas of need created by the budget blueprint. Our goal is to maximize the long-term benefit to the campus based on the Bicentennial Plan and the needs of our students. As a result I have approved that $250,000 be restored to Academic Affairs for courses for the fall semester. Further changes to the budget blueprint will occur when we know more about the State budget for 2010-2011 and when we have our final enrollment numbers for fall 2010. Areas we will consider for budget stabilization include admissions, human resources, physical plant, and academic affairs to name a few. The budget blueprint is a point of departure which we will continue to implement in a strategic manner based on our immediate needs and long-term goals. Further complicating matters, there may be additional cuts coming from the State, as outlined above. On the resource side of the balance sheet our utilities costs have been lower this year and we have strong enrollments and project that the Fall enrollment both at the graduate and undergraduate level will be on target. Consequently, we still believe that our final budget will be within the general parameters we assumed in building the budget blueprint. Vice President Mike Lewis and I will present a budget update at the April 29 full faculty meeting.
Even as we struggle with fiscal realities, our students, faculty, and staff continue to work hard and produce amazing results. The life of this academic community is focused on providing a quality educational opportunity for our students. I am continually heartened by the deep affection and dedication that everyone has for this central goal here at SUNY Potsdam.
I am so pleased to report that one of our students, Nate La Rowe, is a National Champion diver. At the recent NCAA Division III national swimming and diving championships, Nate placed first in the 1-meter board competition and third in the 3-meter event. In addition he was named Diver of the Year for all of NCAA Division III. As a result of his showing, SUNY Potsdam is now ranked 24th in the nation in swimming and diving. Congratulations to Nate and his coaches Ken McLaughlin and Ray Toland!
On March 26-27 we held our Fourth Annual Relay for Life here on campus, raising over $50,000 to benefit the American Cancer Society. Annette Robbins (Residence Life) and Julie Dold (Student Leadership and Engagement) co-chaired the event and Susie Cobb (Business Affairs) , Melissa Garwol (Residence Life), Heather teRiele (Admissions), Zach Davis (Residence Life), and Bridgette Bradish (Student Health Services) chaired the operating committees. Within the New York and New Jersey region our Relay for Life event placed first in the number of on-line contributions, and in the number of registered participants, and second in the number of Teams. We are all so proud of this wonderful event and appreciate all of the time and effort that so many individuals and groups put into making this an exemplary one.
The National Science Foundation has awarded SUNY Potsdam’s Department of Computer Science a $573,370 grant to establish a scholarship program to help community college students complete their bachelor’s degrees at the College. The Computer Science Leadership and Practice Scholarship Program will provide 30 students, who have already completed their associate’s degrees in the field, with full scholarships to finish their Bachelor of Science at SUNY Potsdam. The first group of 10 CS-LEAP scholars is being recruited now, and will enroll at the College starting in Fall 2010. Two more groups of 10 students will be supported during the 2011-12 and 2012-13 academic years. In total, 30 students will receive scholarship support, each for two years of study at SUNY Potsdam. This grant recognizes SUNY Potsdam’s leadership in Computer Science education and builds on the development of a series of articulation agreements in Computer Science with most of the leading community colleges in New York and neighboring states.
On April 21-24, we will be celebrating our triennial campus academic festival. The theme for this year’s event is “Footprints in the North Country: Pathways on the Planet.” The four-day festival will be filled with lectures, presentations and panel discussions including students, faculty, and several invited guests. As part of the Festival, CNN’s Anderson Cooper will appear live on the screen of Hosmer Hall and discuss his experiences in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. A panel of students will pose questions to Cooper about the Haiti earthquake and about the future of journalism in the Internet age. Other specialists participating in the festival will be Mary Louise Pratt, Silver Professor and Professor of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures at New York University; Paul Winter, award-winning saxophonist, bandleader, composer, explorer of the world's musical traditions and founder of Living Music and the Paul Winter Consort; and Jim Merkel, environmental activist and author of Radical Simplicity.