James P. Brandau, Ballot Position No. 73

James P. Brandau ’03 Bus
Private Wealth Adviser, Morgan Stanley & Co.
Conshohocken, Pa.

Read Brandau’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?

Support provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to Penn State has been declining for many years. In fact, the appropriations now cover less than 7% of our operating expenses. Alumni, friends and business organizations that benefit from a world class University need to work to reverse this downward spiral. Insisting the University’s funding be an issue in State legislative elections will have a great impact. Penn Staters are everywhere, and demanding the Commonwealth sustain one of its greatest assets will have an incredible impact.

Administrators and trustees are charged with managing a very complex institution and solving problems in the short term. Each time appropriations are cut, or costs increase, decisions need to me made. Tuition has been increased to levels that price out the hardworking, highly qualified students that have always been the lifeblood of our University. We need, always, to work to cut unnecessary costs and increase the efficiency of our operations. Thoughtful involvement by the Board in both operational and capital spending can lead to significant improvements.

Having said all of the above, I recognize that expenses can only be cut so much. The loss of key personnel or deterioration of critical facilities can do irreparable harm to our school. I believe we can maintain our status as a great university even in an environment of declining public funding. Continuing development of web-based instruction, leveraging our treasure trove of Intellectual property, and exploring our common interests with industrial and financial institutions are key ways to increase revenue.

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.

The finest university serves little purpose if the best and brightest students cannot afford to attend. Penn State and other institutions have already effectively excluded many unable or unwilling to borrow $75,000 to attend. Tuition must be controlled. Costs need to be cut where feasible and the school needs to expand non-tuition sources of income. As discussed in the prior answer, the importance of Penn State to the Commonwealth needs to be made clear to the officials responsible for state appropriations. A cause of the financial problems the University faces each year is the manner in which the appropriations are legislated. Each year the University submits a funding request. The budget cutters then go to work in an effort to trim the request as much as possible. The appropriation is then set with little attention paid to the real needs of the Commonwealth’s flagship institution. A more grounded approach might be to establish an appropriate baseline appropriation and adjust it each year for inflation and agreed upon changes in the University’s mission (i.e. large capital expenditures.) The appropriation could be funded from a dedicated source, similar to the way lottery procedures are used to fund senior citizen programs. A suggestion might be to provide funding to higher education from a tax on Marcellus shale drillers. Certainly Pennsylvania’s burgeoning energy industry has benefited greatly from the extensive Marcellus research done at Penn State over the past decade.

3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?

The original land-grant mission, as set forth in 19th century state and Federal legislation, focused heavily on science, engineering and, especially, agriculture.  Penn State has been very successful carrying out its original charge. These physical sciences remain keystones in the growth of our commonwealth and nation. The land-grant mission has expanded and changed as technology and our society have evolved. World class research, delivery of critical medical services, and above all, quality education in a spectrum of fields, are now expected from the University. Our goal should not be to meet, but to exceed, these expectations.

A university, in many ways, takes on a life of its own. The needs of future workforces and populations will define what Penn State looks like 10 or 20 years from now. Administrators, alumni, students, and the Board of Trustees all will provide critical insight and input into the metamorphosis. However, certain principles should never change. All qualified individuals need access to the University.  Delivering on this core principle of a land-grant school requires the quality management and fiscal responsibility discussed in the responses to the two prior questions.

The creators of the land-grant mission were clear in expressing a desire for schools that would serve our society by delivering quality education to all. That expectation has not changed. The 21st century Penn State will provide practical, high quality, accessible education to all qualified students who seek to improve their lives.

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