O. Richard Bundy III, Ballot Position No. 35

O. Richard Bundy III ’93, ’96g Lib
President and CEO of the University of Vermont Foundation
South Burlington, Vt.

Read Bundy’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?

The approach to securing Penn State’s financial future lies in both increasing revenues and reducing expenses, but neither will be particularly easy. First, we must invest in activities where we have the greatest potential and capacity to increase revenue, chief among these our nationally ranked research portfolio and private philanthropy.  Gifts and grants represent 16% of the institution’s budget (nearly $660 million) — and they are sometimes mutually beneficial.  For example, when a donor establishes an endowed chair to support outstanding faculty, their gift provides discretionary resources that the faculty member can use to advance his/her research and more successfully compete for additional Federal, State, and industry funding in the future.  On the expense side, Penn State must continue to seek overhead reductions, consolidation or elimination of poorly performing or obsolete programs, and greater operational efficiencies.  Often, the decisions that earn these savings are unpopular among our stakeholders, so they must be made in a manner that is consistent with the institution’s strategic plan, with broad participation from the campus community, and with the highest levels of transparency.  Finally, Penn State should take steps to further strengthen our Grassroots Network to make an even more powerful statement in Harrisburg about the value of the Commonwealth’s investment in Penn State.   For every dollar the state invests, Penn State returns $25 in direct economic impact.  Pennsylvanians must let their elected officials know that disinvestment in higher education will have serious implications on the long-term economic vitality of the state.

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.

In 2011 Penn State held the dubious distinction of being the most expensive public University in the United States for in-state students, and tuition and fees now represent the largest component of Penn State’s overall $4.1 billion budget at $1.3 billion (31.7%).

In order to ensure access and affordability for the next generation of students, Trustees must resist the temptation to view tuition increases as a sustainable budget balancing solution.  Penn State can take significant steps towards making college more affordable by reducing the growth in institutional expenses so that tuition increases slow or stop altogether and increasing the four-year graduation rate so that students pay tuition for fewer semesters.  For example, every 1% reduction in the overall Penn State operating budget generates savings equivalent to avoiding a 3% tuition increase.  Another example:  Penn State’s four year graduation rate is 64.7%; the five year graduation rate improves significantly to 83.9%.  Each year that a student stays at University Park beyond their fourth year can add between $17,000 and $19,000 to their total cumulative tuition expense.  Penn State must take all efforts to ensure that students who want to graduate in four years have access to the courses, counseling, and other services they need to meet that objective.

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

The original intent of the Land Grant mission was to teach members of the working classes courses in agriculture, military tactics, and the mechanic arts alongside the traditional liberal arts disciplines.  Land Grant colleges pledged that the cost of higher education would remain within reach of Americans of average financial means, and that the benefits gained through research and instruction conducted on their campuses would be disseminated throughout the community.  I believe Penn State’s land grant mission in the 21st century is fundamentally the same, but on a much larger stage.  Instead of educating just the young men and women of Pennsylvania, our campuses attract students from around the world – they are reflective of an integrally linked global community.  Our faculty and students are applying the knowledge they develop towards solving the most pressing challenges on the planet — challenges like public health and wellness, food safety and security, sustainable energy, a clean environment, safe access to water, and many, many more.  And, despite the high tuition I referenced previously, when compared to private universities, Penn State continues to provide affordable access to a college degree to students with limited means.  Penn State’s Land Grant mission is intact and should be treasured; our long standing commitment to teaching, research and outreach is having a positive impact worldwide.

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