|You may reach
Joe by mail at Binghamton University, PO Box 6000, Binghamton, New
York 13902-6000; by fax: 607-777-2654; by phone: 607-777-2431; or
by e-mail: alumni@ binghamton.edu.
Over the past three years, state financial support for Binghamton University
has declined 15 percent. These reductions come after a decade of small
but steady decreases in state funding for public higher education in general
-- consistent with the funding realities public higher-education
institutions are facing across the nation.
The full picture is complex and there are many forces at work. The bottom
line, however, is that we shouldn’t count on receiving any significant
increase in state funding in the foreseeable future. That is why it is
so important that we alumni understand and get involved in this issue.
Binghamton and the SUNY system are not alone in the current trend. With
a sluggish economy, advancing healthcare costs and a war all taking a
toll on state and federal budgets, higher education has suffered on numerous
fronts. An article in the November 15, 2004, issue of Business Week commented
on the situation elsewhere: "At Penn State, only 12 percent of the
budget comes from state funds. At Colorado, Denver only kicks in 9 percent."
Unfortunately, too few recognize the profound benefits of public higher
education or the long-term impact of these budget reductions. The mission
of public higher education is to provide access for bright, education-minded
students from all economic backgrounds. This broad access to higher education
has fueled our national competitiveness and has provided opportunity for
individuals from all classes.
Because of reduced state funding support, most public universities, including
the SUNY system, have had to bridge the gap through tuition increases.
While tuition has risen, financial-aid support programs have remained
static or, in some states, been reduced. As a result, students with lower
financial means are relying more on loans and graduating with higher indebtedness.
So, what can we do about it? The answers are not simple, but let’s
start with a quick look at what Binghamton has already done.
First, the University has become leaner and more efficient, examining
everything from its business practices to its energy use in an effort
to make full use of every tax and tuition dollar. Second, the University
has looked to other areas to raise revenues. Between 1991 and 2002, funding
through the Binghamton University Foundation has increased sevenfold,
in part thanks to the generosity of alumni. The total amount raised by
the Binghamton University Foundation from private sources increased significantly
-- to $17 million last year. These Foundation dollars are often directed
toward specific donor wishes -- student aid, academic programs, facilities
and other projects.
In addition, as reported in the previous issue of the Alumni Journal,
funding from research grants has increased 66 percent in the past
five years, topping $26.5 million in 2003-04. Other entrepreneurial ventures
are in the works, ranging from the highly successful new winter session
to innovative investments in student housing.
New York state has expressed its confidence in Binghamton University by
investing capital funds in structures that will leverage economic growth
in the region and state -- $15 million through a Gen*NY*sis grant
to renovate research space for the Innovative Technologies Complex, $25
million for the Downtown Education Center and $21 million for equipment
and space for the High Technology Commercialization Center.
Our University is adapting nimbly. However, there is more work to be done
to fund the excellence in education that has earned Binghamton the reputation
as the premier public university in the northeast.
Your gifts are critical to the future of excellence at Binghamton University.
While generosity from alumni has increased significantly, and every dollar
is valued, we have a lower rate of alumni giving than our academic peers.
Increased levels of alumni giving will provide much needed support.
Just as important, Binghamton University needs your voice in the dialog
about funding for public higher education. It is critical that we, as
alumni who benefited from a public higher education, inform others about
the realities and consequences of the lack of funding for higher education.
The Alumni Association will continue to pursue these goals and looks forward
to your joining us in this endeavor. As the University and the state sort
through the options in front of us -- such as increasing entrepreneurial
efforts, reducing excessive regulatory practices and increasing fundraising
efforts -- we need your input and your influence.
-- Joe Bress '66