Barry M. Simpson, Ballot Position No. 33
Read Simpson’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).
Answers to Questions
1. In view of sharply declining state appropriations, what steps should Penn State be taking to secure its financial future?
First and foremost, Penn State needs to do all it can to address the declining state appropriations. This means supporting the efforts of the Penn State administration in its communications with members of the legislature and the governor. This takes the efforts of the Trustees and all alumni in reaching out to the state government and reminding them that a quality education is a necessity. While disturbing that it has come to this, I applaud the exploration of privatization and other alternatives by the Trustees. Where the downward slide of state appropriations will end, if it does, is impossible to predict and Penn State needs to be prepared for that eventuality.
Penn State needs to continue to cultivate a culture of unrestricted giving by its alumni. When compared to other universities and colleges we are way behind, despite generous efforts of alumni. The income derived from investments can offset loss of state appropriations if that continues to occur.
Penn State needs to continue to examine its business model and take appropriate action. While President Spanier and his administration did an excellent job in this regard, more needs to be done. For example, a business plan and budget that includes salary freezes for faculty and staff occurring frequently in recent years cannot be sustained. Penn State will not be competitive in the market place for this talent. Where can resources come from in the future? For example, expenses may be managed better with continued emphasis on expanding the commonwealth campuses and the World Campus.
2. The rising cost of tuition nationally is making college less affordable for many students. Outline the steps you believe Penn State should be taking to address the issue.
Tuition is rising for both in-state residents and for out-of-state residents. In-state students receive a large discount on tuition by reason of the state appropriations. If the state appropriations are reduced that discount is correspondingly reduced. It is therefore important to fight for those state appropriations.
However, in the face of declining appropriations what can be done? The choices are difficult. One choice is changing the ratio of in-state to out-of-state students by increasing the number of out-of-state students admitted. While this ratio can be tweaked, and doing so would keep in-state students’ tuition lower, it must be done prudently so that Penn State continues to meet its mission of educating qualified residents of Pennsylvania.
Seeking other sources of revenue, and cost containment, are two elements that must be considered. As the executive director of a large non-profit I know these are difficult to do and painful choices are often required. As a Trustee, I would want to be assured that all is being done that can be done in these two areas. Utilizing the commonwealth campuses and World Campus to permit students and their families the ability to manage their overall educational costs is another priority.
Finally, Penn State must develop a long term plan for a world without, or at best minimal, state appropriations. By doing so, it can create a bench mark for future tuition and manage if not eliminate the continuing need for annual increases in tuition caused by the corresponding reduction in appropriations from the state.
3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?
To look to the future we must know and honor the past. Penn State has been a land-grant college since shortly after the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862. The charge to land grant colleges then was to provide a quality education to members of the industrial classes in agriculture, engineering and other sciences. This resulted in the creation of agricultural research, and agricultural cooperative extensions applying that research to the needs of Pennsylvania farmers. Engineering and the applied sciences and research have grown to the extent that Penn State is rated among the top ten universities in expenditures for research and development.
What does that mean for the future? The needs of Pennsylvania farmers, and the world they help feed, remain great. Penn State must continue to support agricultural research and education, educating and helping the farmers produce increasing food with decreasing land resources.
In 2009 Penn State expended over $750 million on research and development. Penn State must aggressively continue to expand its research and development, which will provide necessary knowledge and education to Pennsylvanians into the 21st century. We must have highly-trained, technologically savvy Pennsylvanians. That will both honor and meet the goals of the land-grant mission. Penn State has positioned itself well in the fields of engineering, science, technology, energy, medicine and the like to meet those challenges. It is our task to help Penn State continue to find the resources necessary to maintain and grow its status and expertise in all of these fields of science.