Outstanding Student Reception. This past Friday, I joined the Interim Provost, Deans, Department Chairs and Faculty, and parents and friends in recognizing this fall's Outstanding Graduates. The opportunity to celebrate and honor the accomplishments of our very best graduating students was uplifting and rewarding, as was the pride and joy so evident in our students, their faculty, and their friends and parents. Thanks to all who attended that event, and for the time and thought that academic units invest in identifying honorees.
Economic Impact. At a press conference last week, I released findings about the most recent analysis of our economic impact in the region and New York State. That event generated very good “press” for the College, and will help us build support and visibility for our role in the Hudson Valley. Chancellor Zimpher mentioned our report and the media coverage it garnered during last week's President's meeting, citing it as an example of the critical role SUNY campuses play in the state's fiscal health. These findings may be useful as you speak with friends, neighbors, and political leaders about the contributions that we make to the region and the state and about the value of supporting SUNY and higher education in New York.
The study's key findings reinforce that while we don't pay taxes, we contribute financially to New Paltz and the region in critical ways. Through direct expenditures and indirect economic effects, the College contributes $338 million to the Hudson Valley economy annually and generates 3,331 jobs in the region. Our contribution to the New York State economy is about $400 million and almost 4,000 jobs. The College is the third-largest employer in Ulster County; 92% of our payroll of $67.5 million is paid in the Hudson Valley and 99% in New York State. Our direct spending on goods, services, and construction is $53.7 million. One half of the College's vendors are in the Hudson Valley, about 845 in Ulster County alone, and about half of the total Ulster County spending ($1.9 million) occurs in New Paltz. Our direct expenditures and spending by students ($101.3 million), employees, and visitors circulates through the local economy, supporting and enriching local business and industry.
This year's study also showed that 79% of the College's personnel volunteered their time, an average of 100 hours, for the good of our communities, non-profit organizations, and fellow citizens. This translated into 140,000 hours of volunteer effort -- the equivalent of nearly 70 full-time volunteers working year round! I'm extremely proud to have such a committed workforce that embraces the values of volunteerism and community service.
The study was prepared by staff in the Office of Institutional Research and Planning and the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO), based on financial data from 2008-2009. Researchers employed standard models developed by the U.S. Department of Commerce and used by universities and colleges nationwide to calculate economic impact. More detailed information on the study is available at the Making an Impact Web site. In my press conference comments, I emphasized the key points that our economic impacts are a spinoff of our primary mission, and that reduced state support for the College will inevitably diminish some of those positive consequences.
External Relations. As I have shared with you previously, one of my goals as Interim President is to sustain and build relationships with the broader community to assure continued support, financial and otherwise, for the College and our programs. Those efforts continue. In the past month, I participated in the Mount Saint Mary College Gala in Newburgh to establish and continue ties to the Orange County community, where many of our alumni reside; attended the Greater Hudson Valley “Pattern for Progress” event in New Windsor; and continued my work as a member of the Mohonk Preserve Board of Directors and the Historic Huguenot Street advisory council.
Upcoming events include a town-gown holiday get-together; a reception for New Paltz alums living in Orange County; a planned January trip to Florida to meet with donors, supporters, and prospective donors; and presentations about our economic impact analysis at a local service organization and on a regional radio program. Later this week and supportive of our efforts to work effectively with local and regional media, we will meet with the editorial board of The Times Herald-Record.
Budget. As you know if you attended last week's budget forum, Vice President DiStefano and I discussed our planning to adjust our budget by $3.2 million. As we shared at that meeting, we have evaluated many suggestions for reducing expenditures or enhancing revenue (few of the latter can be implemented during the coming year to increase revenues in a predictable way, thus we must focus on reducing expenses). We have not finalized any decisions, but implementation of all of the viable and specific suggestions would reduce our expenditures by more than $2 million. Information is being gathered and analyzed to help us understand the savings that would result from several other ideas put forth. While we have made good progress toward our required reduction, we still face a gap of more than $900,000 and have much work to do over the coming months.
Information about the budget and the process, criteria, and constraints by which we are adjusting our budget is available on the Budget Update website . I will not repeat extensive detail here. Below, I provide links to other sources of information that will help you understand our local campus budget situation, actions being taken or considered on other SUNY campuses, and the broader economic and political climate that influences our thinking about how we approach this situation. The linked op-ed article I wrote and that appeared in last week's New Paltz Oracle will help you understand the process by which we have been approaching this situation, and that we will continue to use during the coming months as we develop a full plan to bring our expenditures in line with our revenue.
As I shared in last week's forum, I want to be sure that we all retain perspective on the excellent work and accomplishments of students, faculty, and staff, and that we are committed to sustaining – even as we adjust to new fiscal and political realities. Other institutions have emerged from such challenges strong, and sometimes stronger than they were before, and we will as well. Vice President DiStefano, other College leaders, and I remain committed to transparency, open communication, and sharing of views and information. I am grateful to everyone who participated in last week's forum, and for the productive, collegial, and forward-looking interactions in which you all engaged.
Gala. This year's Gala, one of the SUNY New Paltz Foundation's major annual events to raise funds for scholarships, was a grand success. The event, held at the Mohonk Mountain House, netted $51,000, the highest total for any of the eight Galas. Each year, an individual is recognized for their contributions to the College and/or area. This year's honoree was Professor Emerita (Music) Barbara Hardgrave, recognized for her years of dedicated service as a faculty member and her contributions to the New Paltz community, including advocacy for the Elting Library. Rather than the typical acceptance speech, Barbara sang for us, a performance fully in character – some senior faculty may recall the time that former President Alice Chandler was delayed arriving at a faculty meeting, faculty were becoming restless, and Barbara stood up and entertained the faculty with song!
Graduation Rates. A very recent report in the Chronicle of Higher Education ranks New Paltz in the top 10 percent of public universities with the best six-year graduation rates (41 out of 414 doctoral and masters universities). We ranked in the top 2 percent among public masters institutions (5th out of 254 institutions). Our 17% increase in graduation rates between 2003 and 2008 was the second highest increase among public institutions that offer masters degrees. We should be proud of this reflection of student learning and academic success that must be at the heart of our “core mission,” and that we want to safeguard during these challenging economic times.
Holiday Open House and Holiday Greetings. My wife Sandy and I very much enjoyed this year's holiday open house, and thank everyone who joined us. It's important in trying times to celebrate all the blessings of the season and the accomplishments of the fall semester, to have an opportunity to acknowledge the good work that the campus community does on behalf of our students, and to enjoy the company of friends and colleagues.
Best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season and a restorative winter intercession.