The cost of excellence
Excellence is costly, but it is imperative that we achieve it at UB. We must maintain our upward trajectory toward the highest level of excellence, in all our classrooms, in each of our laboratory investigations, in every public service initiative we undertake. This means we must generate the funds to pay for the level of achievement we aspire to and deserve. All of us connected to UB have an obligation to continue to improve the university; this increased quality will directly benefit our current faculty, students and staff. It will also benefit our alumni, since the university's reputation is a key to their past experience and present-day success.
This has been a challenging season for all of us in higher education. The weak economy has affected public institutions, as less funding has been made available for public education nationwide. Private institutions, too, have seen their endowments decrease as the stock market plummeted.
At UB, we have known for a while that the level of quality we desire requires that we lessen our reliance on the state. The steps we have taken in that direction have allowed us to weather what would otherwise have been a very difficult year.
For instance, there were more tuition dollars to spend because we implemented plans to increase enrollment at the graduate level and increase tuition in selected professional programs. In New York, tuition stays on campusa smart incentive system that rewards increased workload and productivity at individual schools. In turn, UB returns any increased tuition to the program, thereby allowing students to directly benefit from the improved quality generated by their own tuition dollars.
Also this past year, UB faculty collectively received increased awards for sponsored research, providing more dollars for research overall. We also increased indirect costs to fund university infrastructure. Moreover, we increased revenue by promoting efficiencies internally. For example, we reorganized academic program delivery and renegotiated utility contracts to save millions of dollars. The dollars generated by these measures allowed us to cover mandated collective bargaining increases that were not funded by the state, while still managing to return increased dollars to the academic areas of UB and to our key support areas, as well.
We are continuing to work on ways of producing our own funds, recognizing that New York can do only so much in the face of declining state revenues, and given other state priorities. One other source of potentially significant future income lies in patents and licenses. Our newly created Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) has been established to ensure that we commercialize our intellectual property. Depending on the technology, this may mean licensing the technology to an existing firm (which will return monies to the inventor, to UB and to Western New York), or starting a new business based on the technology. A second major source of new revenue can be found in our plans to expand our summer programs. Buffalo is beautiful in the summer, and the university's physical plant and infrastructure are here to provide access to our educational offerings throughout the year, not just in the traditional academic season from August to May.
Private philanthropy is another increasingly important source of funding for public institutions. State universities are now commonly referred to as state-supported or state-assisted institutions, in recognition of the fact that the majority of campus income now comes from non-state sources. We can expect that in the coming years UB will generate more and more of its revenue from non-state sources. Only then can we achieve the excellence we owe to our faculty, students, staff and alumni.
Elizabeth D. Capaldi