January 27, 2009
Good evening. I want to thank each of you for taking the time to be with us. I know you have had very full schedules today, and we greatly appreciate your devoting your time, energy and talents to support Virginia Tech.
We again felt and needed that support with the tragic death of a Chinese graduate student last Wednesday. Our hearts go out to the victim and her family.
Such an act of senseless violence brings back memories of the April 16 tragedy, and I’m sure that many of you feel – just as we do – shocked and distraught. But, our university is grateful to the Virginia Tech Police Department, which was on the scene one minute after receiving the 911 call.
Once again we are challenged as a community to offer support to one another, but I am confident that once again we will rise to the occasion.
We are, of course, offering counseling to faculty, staff, and students who so desire.
Again, at times like this we are reminded how important friends and family are, and we will continue to do everything we can to support the Virginia Tech family.
Thank you for being a part of that family. It is always gratifying to see the commitment that our alumni have for our great university.
I came here tonight to share with you some of the good news about the tremendous progress we have made as well as some of the challenges were are facing.
We entered the new year with tremendous momentum. We’ve gotten lots of positive responses to the 2008 Year in Review video we sent out. Looking back at 2008, it was indeed a year of surprises and accomplishments:
There is much, as Hokies, we can be proud of. Across campus and in all areas, we have many programs developing into some of the finest in the nation and others that have maintained excellence over sustained periods.
That is what we want and what we expect for all our endeavors. It’s a tribute to bright, hard-working students and outstanding professionals who work with those young people to reach greater heights.
Our many successes speak volumes about the breadth and capacity of our university, and offer encouragement for the future and confidence in our ability to improve that future — for all of society.
Yet today, we face tremendous challenges in finding the resources to maintain our momentum and propel our progress.
We fully recognize the economic challenges facing the nation and our great Commonwealth and its people. This recession may be a modern-era record for its scale and scope.
To date, the consequence for us is a 20 percent reduction in our E&G funding, a total cumulative loss of more than $42 million.
We all face the daunting task of finding the right balance of keeping costs in line without choking off hope for a brighter future.
We also know that we must make critical investments today in order to have greater economic strength in the future.
We cannot afford to stand still, and one of the best ways to grow our economy is to support an education system that will expand opportunity, prepare our citizens for the jobs of tomorrow, and create the innovations that will propel our economy to a strong future.
Just as you do, we know that in economic hard times we have to tighten our belts. And I am proud to say that Virginia Tech, in terms of total cost, remains among the lowest of any university in the Commonwealth and among its peer institutions across the country.
In fact, in its latest issue, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine announced their list of “100 Best Values in Public Education.” And, Virginia Tech ranked 15th among more than 500 colleges and universities across the nation.
And, while our budgetary support is diminishing, the demand for a Virginia Tech education is increasing. Our applications for admission were at an all-time high last year, and are running ahead of that pace this year. Overall, in the last four years, we have enrolled 2,000 additional Virginia undergraduates – at the same time that our General Fund support has decreased by $40 million.
We clearly recognize the economic difficulties facing many of our families, so we continue to make every effort to make a Virginia Tech education accessible and affordable. We have increased our efficiency. . . doing more with less.
Adjusted for inflation, the average cost of an education at Virginia Tech is less today than in 1990-91.
Also, we have established innovative financial aid programs to assist our students in dealing with tuition increases. The university has initiated and maintained a significant commitment to student access over the last 6 years. Overall, we envision student financial aid of $27 million in this coming academic year.
In addition, with the ever-increasing loss of jobs in our economy—50,000 announced just yesterday alone, at some of what were thought to be the strongest of the nation’s corporations—we know that a number of current students will face financial difficulties.
We want to do what we can to assist them in continuing their education, without undue hardship. Therefore, we are establishing an emergency loan program to provide this critical financial aid for students who might otherwise have to drop out of Virginia Tech.
All in all, this great university is providing tremendous value and is certainly doing its part to maintain an outstanding and affordable education for its students.
Yet, considering the very important role higher education plays in society, it is disheartening to once again see Virginia drastically reducing its public support.
Higher education’s share of the state’s general fund appropriations has continually shrunk and now stands at about 10 percent, down from 16 percent in 1990.
At one time, Virginia wanted an in-state student to pay about 25 percent of the “cost to educate,” with the state picking up the balance. This year, Virginia students and their families are bearing roughly 55 to 60 percent of the cost.
Although that package is still unclear, we are hoping that the federal stimulus plan will provide some new funding for higher education, and we are working hard on that front.
Regardless, we ask for your support in addressing these needs and their importance to the quality of our programs and the future of the University, and ultimately to the future of the Commonwealth.
In today’s information age, knowledge and discovery are at a premium, and ideas and innovation have become much more than the fuel for the larger engines of our economy. They are seed capital, necessary for the long-term growth and prosperity of our citizens and of the Commonwealth—and indeed, of the country.
I would ask that we not lose sight of one of the most important things we can do for the future of the Commonwealth--and that is investing in the research and development that are needed to develop new, groundbreaking technologies; to grow current industry in the state; to recruit new industries to the Commonwealth; and to create jobs.
For example, the opening of the Rolls-Royce facility in nearby Prince George County. That venerable company stated clearly that a key part of its decision to locate in Virginia was because of the expertise and talent at Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia. A primary need was for numerous engineers, and Virginia Tech is one of the nation’s top 5 producers of undergraduate engineers.
There is much more I could say about the pressing needs for higher education in Virginia and, particularly, at Virginia Tech, but I know it has been a long day, so I will close now.
With your support, we will continue to reach for and attain our goals, in the classroom and in our laboratories. We will invent an exciting and rewarding future.
And we will continue to make you proud to be a part of Virginia Tech, a championship university in research, teaching, and outreach.
And again, thank you for being here with us today. And we ask for your support as we grapple with the damage that the tremendous loss of state resources is imposing upon our educational, research and outreach missions.