December 3, 2023
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Road Map Strategic Priority 5 ’deep dive’

A 2022 graduate poses on the berm. A 2022 graduate poses on the berm.
A 2022 graduate poses on the berm. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

It was Strategic Priority 5 (Strategic investments: Optimize the acquisition and allocation of human, technological, financial and physical resources) that presented its deep dive update to the Road Map Steering Committee in May.

John Cordi, CFO and senior associate vice president, and the SP5 team reviewed current goals, metrics and support for financial, faculty and staff, and technological resources, as well as for physical infrastructure.

“We added support items to our planning this year as new,” Cordi said.

Goal 1: Binghamton has the financial resources necessary to achieve the University’s goals.

“The first metric is revenue per annual average full-time student and the target remains unchanged, but is pretty flat,” Cordi said. “But we are above our target and doing well in this regard, even during COVID.”

“The support items we thought were useful were SUNY composite scores that the U.S. Department of Education uses as a benchmark,” he added. “It’s used as a gauge of the fiscal strength of an institution and we compare ourselves to some other SUNYs [Albany, Buffalo, Stony Brook, Downstate Medical, Upstate Medical, ESF, Optometry and Polytechnic]. (See chart at right.)

“It’s important to note that anything in green indicates the institution is financially responsible and in good financial standing, and the only three institutions that are green for the years 2019 through 2021 are Binghamton, Buffalo and Optometry; our scores are also the best across the three years for all the SUNY schools. Clearly, we’re in good financial shape.”

The composite score is made up of three ratios, Cordi said: the primary reserve ratio, equity ratio and net income ratio. “Anything 16% or above means the institution can handle two months of expenses without worrying,” he said. “We’re over 500%, so we can function for about six months without additional assets being created or incurred.

“This shows that we’re in a good financial position, especially coming out of the last couple years of COVID,” he said.

Vice President for Advancement John Koch spoke about Goal 1, metric 2: endowment growth. [The University’s endowment was at $148,121,733 at the end of fiscal year 2020-21.]

“We started looking closely at this at the end of last year,” Koch said. “We dipped down as of end of March, but we have to continue to feed the endowment, which is a one of our major campaign priorities.

“Last year, the Road Map funded a vendor to uncover our gift planning program and, at end of our first year in June we have $9 million in pipeline that was not there last year, just of people we know,” Koch said. “We don’t know when these monies will show up, but they’re in the pipeline.

“We also hired an executive director for gift planning, Lynne Jones, from Syracuse University, where their model of their $1.5 billion campaign is that about 40% will come through gift planning,” he added. “In our campaign, right now, we’re at about 5% will in deferred gifts, so this is a huge opportunity for us to grow over time. It will make a difference in the endowment going forward.”

Goal 1, metric 3 is new and is about support to the campus, Koch said.

“Once again, we’re seeing steady growth through a combination of yield from our endowment and spendable gifts that come in every year. We continue to see larger opportunities through this campaign and the Binghamton Fund continues to grow and this year will hit about $2.2 million.”

Alumni giving is also a factor in support to the campus. “The case standard for the end of FY 21, the average for alumni giving is down to 3.5% and we are at 4.7%,” Koch said. “Alumni giving goes to engagement. We need to make sure we’re monitoring that and there are two things we will do.

“Last year, the Road Map funded us to bring in a graduate student to tear our data apart,” Koch said. “We have 25.5 million data points that he went to town on: age, geography, history of giving, time between gifts, etc. This coming year, we will analyze the data to see what will make a difference.

“Our target for alumni giving is 7%, the median of the schools we compare ourselves to in the America East, Koch said. “We think we can catch and surpass that.”

The method of solicitation is also key in alumni giving. “Eighty-eight hundred people made their first gift to the University in the past 10 years,” Koch said. “And the Telefund was the #1 way to attract first-gift givers across all age groups. Those same 8,800 came back and made 12,000 more gifts. What caught up was the online presence for the second gift. Is email effective at all? Over last 10 years, it’s been the least effective.”

Koch provided additional data on giving:

  • Of the total alumni database, 31% of all alumni made a gift in their lifetime, averaging $2,000.
  • 46% who attended an event gave and their average gift went up to $7,000.
  • For volunteer alumni, the giving rate goes up to 52% for an average of $14,000.
  • If an alum attended an event and also volunteers (about 200 people), 60% give and the average gift goes up to $17,000.

“So we’re tracking who is volunteering and who is coming to events,” Koch said. “Every person who attends or volunteers, we track that for when they get their first solicitation by calling through the Telefund or a phone call.”

Alumni behaviors are more alike than different across schools and the median gift is pretty equal,” Koch added. “Though Harpur and SOM average gifts are much higher, almost every school is about the same level of median gift. The School of Pharmacy isn’t listed yet.

“There are thousands of ways we have to look at what will move the needle to pull the level of alumni giving up and do a better job of engaging them,” Koch said, “including looking at an engagement index that turns into gifts.”

Goal 2: Binghamton has faculty and staff resources that ensure a premier educational experience.

“We’ve had this metric 4 have for some time now, based off of IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System),” Cordi said. “We continue to remain flat and we are over target. Other SUNY schools have slipped in this category.”

Along similar lines, metric 5, the student-faculty ratio, is above our target with a little recent dip, but for the past couple years, we are doing well, Cordi said.

“For metric 6, faculty attrition rates, overall we’re doing well, with a little dip in 2017, but overall, faculty are doing well and are engaged,” Cordi said.

“And for metric 7, staff attrition rate, there was a bit of a jump in 2020, but we’re over our target now, including voluntary and non-renewals. We will continue to monitor and assess,” Cordi said.

Goal 3: Binghamton has the technological resources of a premier public university.

For metric 8, to assess this goal, the team used the technology satisfaction survey from 2021, said Niyazi Bodur, associate vice president and CIO.

“The results were pretty much steady,” he said. “Taking extremely satisfied and satisfied responses together, we are at 87% and our target is 90%. Dissatisfaction responses dropped from 5% to 2%.”

“Metric 9, student satisfaction paints a bit of a different picture,” he said, “with 68% for extremely satisfied and satisfied when we’re aiming at 80%. This is a slight drop from the prior survey. Generally, we think it is due to COVID-related situations and the much higher demand for technology and that’s reflected in the results.”

Bodur said the predominant complaint from students is about Wi-Fi. “It seems that it’s never enough.”

Mentions of Brightspace (the University’s new online learning platform), however, were positive across the board, Bodur said.

He also outlined recent major investments or ones that are just about on the horizon:

  • A new storage solution for all enterprise systems and data that will be housed in the main campus data center and the Health Sciences Campus data center and if there is a problem in one, the other will pick it up automatically. It costs $500,000+ and is ransomware resistant. It is expected to be ready for the fall semester.
  • A new backup solution with state-of-the art snapshot technology, quick recovery and additional ransomware resistance at a cost of $500,000 that is expected to be in place by the end of the calendar year. Instead of six to seven weeks recovery time if we are hit with ransomware, it will hopefully take only one week to recover.
  • Additional security upgrades with firewalls and scanning and security tools at a cost of $375,000.
  • Secure, high-performance research storage and computer infrastructure called Green Cloud. The secure space is completed, Additional physical infrastructure at $250,000 is being bid, and storage and compute infrastructure at a cost of $650,000 is in the planning phase.

Bodur also noted that, of about 48,000 users, 33,000 had registered for two-factor authentication by the deadline and the Help Desk was taking about 70 calls per day to assist others in the transition. “The Help Desk is handling it, and I expect another spike as we near the fall semester,” Bodur said.

Darcy Fauci, chief of staff, spoke to the final SP5 goal:

Goal 4: Binghamton University has the physical infrastructure of a premier public university.

Metric 10 for this goal is a Facilities Condition Index, Fauci explained. “The lower the score the better,” she said. “In 2018, our index was over 11 and we’ve improved to 9.76%. It’s hard to move this metric but we’re approaching our target of about 9.5%.

“In comparison to other SUNY centers, we are in decent shape, Stony Brook is at 17.62%, and Albany and Buffalo are in the middle between us,” Fauci added.

She said that the University is currently working on some of our oldest, most difficult buildings, which will help us lower our index number. “Old Rafuse is being worked on now, the West Gym needs work, Fine Arts is in the works, the library renovation is underway and the Administration Building is also in need of work, mostly windows.

“There is some bright news on the capital funding front,” Fauci said. “There is the potential to get more than we have in the past decade with $153 million to be distributed to SUNY and we’re guaranteed $11 million for critical maintenance. There is also $396 million in a lump sum that we can try for. Then there is an additional $650 million in one-time funding and $450 million of that is a lump fund that all SUNY schools can compete for.”

Binghamton’s target projects for the $396 million pot is the Lecture Hall, Fine Arts Building, Science 2 and Science 3, as well as an electrical distribution system and a welcome center.

There’s a long list of projects we will target for the additional lump sum funding that is competitive, Fauci said. “We’ll see which ones can get done in the next budget year.”

There was further discussion about several buildings that need upgrades. See the SP5 presentation on the Road Map updates and news page.


SP1: Research expenditures are $40.7 million, up 6% from last year, and our committed funds are up very significantly, 45% from the same period last year. It’s a good year in terms of the number of PhD graduates —192 — which is a record, so the National Science Foundation reports should be higher. From an R1 research perspective we’re very pleased. The faculty awards coordinator search failed so the search will reopen to attract new candidates. The other position, for a videographer/web person was filled.

SP2: We have had some meetings and are looking at the teaching metric, and looking at the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification to see if there is a role for SP2 to assist. We think so. We’ll update all data points after we look at the end of semester. We will do the summer courses in chemistry, math and writing that were so successful last year.

SP3: We’re waiting for metrics relating to student retention/enrollment and thank our colleagues who just gave us the faculty/staff retention information. We are moving forward with faculty and staff recruitment data, moving forward with a video series with White Knight. We attended the Faculty and Staff of Color Mixer and the BFirst Cording Ceremony. We thank President Stenger, Provost Nieman and Harpur Dean Celia Klin for being able to extend offers to two presidential diversity postdocs, one in the fall in anthropology, another in January in geography. We are waiting to hear from Watson College, which had to pause and restart. SUNY said five faculty through PRODiG have been awarded. That is now a total of 16. We will try applying for some retroactive PRODiG faculty as well.

SP4: We will be doing the community partner survey this summer. It was last done in 2019, due to COVID. We’re updating the survey to be a bit more in line with the Carnegie Classification.

SP6: We’re getting ready for our deep dive. International deposits are looking up, better than last year, graduate students are up 23% at 748, and we are also up with 247 undergraduates. Just under 1,000 immigration documents have been completed, which about mirrors 2019, so that’s good. Education abroad is slowly but surely growing. About 45 students are going abroad for the summer on Binghamton-administered programs and 47 or 48 for fall with fingers crossed for growth.

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