Daniels to Pitch Extended Tuition Freeze

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Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is moving forward with a push for an extended tuition freeze. He plans to ask the school's board of trustees Friday to hold rates for a third year. Daniels first called for the additional year in January in an open letter marking his first year as Purdue president. January 14, 2014

An Open Letter to the People of Purdue

One year ago today I took up my new assignment as your Purdue colleague. I did so with the deepest respect for Purdue's great history and traditions, but also in the knowledge that we have entered a period of momentous change for all of higher education, with predictions in many quarters of upheaval or even widespread failure of long-standing institutions. Fortunately, one of Purdue's strongest traditions is that of constant innovation, of continuous improvement, of steadily striving to build "one brick higher."

In August, after months of consultation with faculty and other campus leadership, we announced a series of actions aimed at propelling our university further forward in both its teaching and discovery missions, and to addressing head-on many of the challenges now confronting all of higher education. Before I or anyone could devise a catchy label for the ten selected initiatives, an informal colloquialism stuck, and they have become known as the Big Moves. As a slogan, it may be pedestrian, but the ambition it embodies is not: Successful implementation would stamp Purdue as a global leader in areas that we believe fit our historic land-grant mission, and matter most to the society of today.

The Morrill Act, which Abraham Lincoln signed in 1862, committed the nation to construct new colleges with two principal goals: to throw open the doors of higher education to a much wider swath of the population, and to promote technological progress in "agriculture and the mechanical arts." At its sesquicentennial, the act's purposes are at least as relevant as at its inception. One study after another informs the nation that economic success requires thousands more engineers, scientists, and technologically adept citizens.

During 2014, we intend to build world-class research teams and facilities in drug discovery and plant science. We are actively recruiting exciting new research talent to join our current complement of drug discovery faculty, and the new Drug Discovery Building and the Multidisciplinary Cancer Research Facility will soon open to house their work. In plant science, we are also moving to recruit new faculty and to identify new research space. A new phenotyping facility, to be housed at the Agronomy Center for Research and Education, and a Center for Molecular Agriculture are underway.

By year's end, we expect to have expanded our engineering faculty by 50 net new professors, en route to a Phase One growth of 107. By that time, we should have determined targets for student and faculty growth during our second round of expansion. This time next year, we project that our undergraduate engineering enrollment will exceed 7,700, setting a record high for the seventh consecutive year, and our total engineering enrollment (undergraduate plus graduate) will exceed 10,700. By 2015, Purdue will be accounting for more than 5 percent of the national call to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year.

Our College of Technology is setting a great example for us all by rethinking creatively the way it teaches and prepares students for the 21st Century economy. Its faculty deserves our encouragement and support as it seeks to transform itself into the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, featuring an even more hands-on, experiential curriculum designed to foster the skills today's employers say they prize most.

When one arrays the public research universities of the U.S. by their concentration of STEM disciplines (measured in percentage of undergraduate degrees conferred), Purdue already ranks third. After our Big Moves expansions are complete, we should be even more distinctive as a leader in producing the thousands of new engineers and technologists for which both business and governmental leaders are calling. We aspire to be the leading technology school between the coasts, and a wellspring of new inventions and jobs to strengthen the Indiana economy of tomorrow.

THE PAJAMAS TEST

When critics and skeptics contrive dramatic metaphors like "tsunami" and "avalanche" to forecast wrenching changes in higher education, they are thinking of two intersecting phenomena: first, the appearance of disruptive alternatives to site-based, "seat-time" residential education, and the escalating costs which have begun to send many students and parents searching for such less expensive alternatives. I have been reducing this to an only half-joking formulation: "Why, in ten or fifteen years, will students still find it wise to pay lots of money to go and live somewhere for four or more years, when a host of competitors are offering to bring them excellent teachers and instruction in the inexpensive comfort of their own homes?" The doomsday predictions may well be misguided or premature, but history is littered with extinct institutions, businesses, or entire industries that dallied in arrogant denial as the bases of their past success were undermined and washed away.

Whatever the future brings to other universities, we intend that Purdue not merely survive but thrive in the reshaped environment ahead. Much of what we already offer, such as undergraduate research projects, extensive laboratory experience, and our plethora of campus leadership opportunities, will be very hard for non-residential offerers to replicate. But we will not rely on traditional strengths alone.

Our Big Moves agenda, through its acceleration of our IMPACT program, includes the swiftest possible transformation of the typical course to some version of the "flipped" classroom that blends the best of the new technologies and time-tested, interpersonal teaching methods. We are already well-embarked on radically increasing the percentage of Boilermakers whose Purdue careers include at least one meaningful international study experience. And, noting the superior academic outcomes for students who live on as opposed to off a college campus, we are acting to increase the share of our students who choose to do so to at least half. All these initiatives must make significant, quantifiable headway in 2014.

AFFORDABILITY

Cutting across all of these challenges is the urgent matter of affordability. As we quickly learned when we offered modest help with expenses, it is a big reason that so few students have been studying abroad. And, particularly as reflected in the cost of meals, it is a big factor in the choice of many students who would otherwise stay on campus to move elsewhere.

Purdue caught the attention of many in and beyond Indiana last spring when we broke a 36-year string of tuition increases, announcing instead a two-year freeze. We followed that up with a 5 percent reduction in the cost of our meal plans, as well as a 56 percent cut in the cost of our co-op internship fees. We declared that we would base Purdue's reputation on the proven excellence of its faculty and graduates, not on its sticker price. We stated that henceforth we would seek to adjust our spending to the budgets of students' families rather than require that they adjust their budgets to ours. Reaction from students, parents, and outside observers was predictably positive. The steps necessary to make the freeze possible were the product of university-wide commitment, in which literally every faculty and staff colleague participated.

Examples large and small can be found all over campus. To cite just a few: Our information technology unit, by consolidating data centers and coordinating with the regional campuses on bulk purchasing, has achieved several hundred thousand dollars in savings that will repeat a