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State Appropriations To Wane

In what was likely one of Biddy Martin's final responsibilities as Cornell's provost, she had to be the bearer of grim news to the trustees in the University's 2008-2009 financial plan. You see, for the next several years, appropriations to Cornell from the State of New York are expected to drop as the world's economy collapses ala Bear Stearns state's revenue sources experience some slight hiccups.

As always, and probably why she was selected as Chancellor of UW-Madison, Biddy is a strong advocate for public education:

After three consecutive years of significant growth in state operating support, the New York State Legislature adopted a budget that yields almost no growth in state appropriations for Cornell in 2008-09. The state budget outlook continues to be challenging, and it is quite possible that we will experience in-year expenditure constraints for Cornellís state appropriations. Indications from Governor Paterson, legislative leaders, and the State University of New York suggest that a significant reduction in state operating support for higher education may occur in 2009-10, and we are planning for this possibility accordingly...

The public at large must not lose sight of the fact that higher education is funded as a partnership among individuals, governments, and institutions. The strength and commitment of that partnership has enabled America to develop the most comprehensive and envied system of higher education in the world. Institutional endowments such as Cornellís cannot alone bear the entire financial burden of providing higher education for those who desire it, and a disproportionate shift of this burden to any of the three partners threatens the very success that has benefited our country to date.

A lot of outsiders fail to appreciate the importance and role of Cornell's state appropriations. The yearly check from Albany functions as a de facto endowment for the statutory colleges, funding professor salaries, student services, and research initiatives. Last year, Cornell received $175 MM in state support. That's the functional equivalent of a $3.5 billion endowment.

Next year? $169 MM.

The problem is that in real terms, Cornell's state support has been declining for quite some time now. After controlling for inflation, Cornell was regularly receiving over $210 MM from the state in the late eighties and early nineties. And today's funding levels stand at the lowest they have been in half a century, falling from 70 percent of the state-side budget to less than 30 percent. So tuition and gifts have had to pick up in kind.

It's bad for New York State. It's bad for students. And it's bad for Cornell.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on June 05, 2008 (#)

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