President Shirley Ann Jackson issued a memo to campus March 4 that provided an update on Rensselaer’s progress toward meeting the challenges posed by the worldwide economic crisis, and on other recent policy developments. She reported that at the recent meeting of the Board of Trustees Feb. 26-28, several decisions were made that will impact members of the Rensselaer community in the coming months. “As with all of the actions that have been taken to weather the economic downturn, we have sought to protect the core enterprise of Rensselaer: to provide a superb academic and living experience for our students, and to enable the highest levels of research and scholarship by our faculty,” President Jackson wrote.
The actions taken in recent months to mitigate the impact of the economic crisis on the Institute have been effective, President Jackson noted. “While the reduction in force we implemented in December was difficult for all of us, it enabled us to reduce our budget by the necessary amount. Now, at a time when many other organizations are announcing layoffs, we do not anticipate any further reductions in force.”
The memo provided an overview of the latest developments, and the president also discussed them at the Town Meeting on March 5. Following is an overview of the actions:
Tuition and Financial Aid
The Board of Trustees has approved undergraduate and full-time graduate tuition for the 2009-10 academic year. Tuition for full-time undergraduate and full-time graduate students will be $38,100, an increase of 3.1 percent. This is the smallest tuition increase since 1996 a measure that was made possible by the proactive steps taken since the onset of the economic crisis. On average, room and board rates will increase 3.9 percent. Graduate tuition rates for the Education for Working Professionals program also have been approved by the Board of Trustees.
According to President Jackson, long before the economic downturn started, the Institute began taking major steps to enhance financial aid resources. Specifically, the overall financial aid budget was increased by $20 million to $83 million. Significant resources have been added to Rensselaer’s financial aid programs to assist students whose families need additional help.
In the process, the Institute created a $2 million supplemental aid fund to assist students who encounter financial hardships this year helping more than 400 students. Major improvements have been made in the effectiveness of the work-study program, and a new range of housing options have been opened to students with higher financial need.
The academic enterprise lies at the heart of Rensselaer’s ability to provide the best educational experience for our students. All of our instructional staff make important contributions to the university, President Jackson said, but the tenured and tenure-track faculty anchor the intellectual vitality of the scholarship and teaching at Rensselaer. “They provide the permanence and stability on which we continue to build our academic stature. In keeping with our goal of building the long-term academic strength of Rensselaer, we are moving away from hiring faculty on a temporary basis from year to year. This means that more of the responsibility for the curriculum and course offerings must be assumed by the tenured and tenure-track faculty,” she said.
“We will be relying increasingly on these faculty, who must be both strong teachers and leading scholars in their fields.”
In FY 2010, the Institute will recruit to fill eight constellation faculty positions, as well as hire the academic (school) deans and vice president for research. It is also expected that tenured and tenure-track faculty hires will be made to assume the positions of director of research at EMPAC and director of the Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations. This will add a total of 14 new tenured and tenure-track faculty. This transition to a greater reliance on the core strengths of the Institute is an important investment in the future of Rensselaer.
Consistent with the Institute’s fiscal needs in the coming year, Rensselaer will offer salary increases to only a limited number of employees for fiscal year 2010. Employees earning less than $50,000 will receive raises consistent with their individual performances. The salaries of all other employees will remain frozen through the 2010 fiscal year. The President and the Cabinet will take 5 percent and 2.5 percent salary reductions, respectively, or make equivalent givebacks, to Rensselaer in the 2010 fiscal year. Those funds will be contributed to a student scholarship fund.
A new Web site has been developed to help the campus community stay up to speed on the latest details about Rensselaer’s approach to the economic crisis. It can be accessed at www.rpi.edu/news/response.
Building on the success of the award-winning First-Year Experience, the Division of Student Life will move forward on several new initiatives designed to elevate the undergraduate experience. The new student life model is based on the concept of “Clustered Learning Advocacy and Support for Students” (CLASS). The CLASS initiative will support enhanced residence life programming, with assistance from upperclass and graduate student resident assistants, the initiation of individual class year deans, and infrastructure for the development of an international student experience and a student life arts program.
To provide ongoing support for second-year students as they continue in their academic and social growth at Rensselaer, beginning in the fall 2009 semester with the entering class of 2013, the Institute will phase in the Sophomore Year Experience program. Beginning with the Class of 2013, freshmen and sophomores will be required to live in Rensselaer housing, or in fraternities and sororities that partner with the Institute on regulations, and room and board fees. The goal of the program is to provide students with a greater sense of belonging and community through living-learning experiences, leadership development opportunities, and increased interaction with faculty under the CLASS initiative model.
Two new residence facilities will help meet the increased demand for university housing. Beginning with the fall semester, students will have a new housing option in the heart of downtown Troy. The Sixth Avenue Residence Hall formerly the Best Western Rensselaer Inn has undergone a complete renovation and modernization to convert it to a state-of-the-art student residence.
The Institute also has entered into an agreement with the Polytechnic Apartments on Congress Street to lease additional rooms for upperclassmen.
The Division of Strategic Communications and External Relations has developed a new Web site to help the campus community stay up to speed on the latest details about Rensselaer’s approach to the economic crisis.
The site will serve as a central resource and clearinghouse for news, information, and updates on our actions and responses. It can be accessed at: www.rpi.edu/news/response.
“I know that some of the steps we have taken to respond to the economic downturn have been painful for our community,” President Jackson noted. “But these actions have been designed to protect our core academic enterprise in the midst of unprecedented turbulence in the financial markets. Our students and faculty remain our top priorities. Teaching and research are the very essence of Rensselaer’s mission, and we have taken every measure possible to minimize the effects of necessary budget reductions on our academic programs. We are better positioned now than ever to manage the unusual worldwide financial circumstances that are affecting institutions everywhere. Times are hard, but we are resilient. We will weather the storm, and emerge stronger as we pass through it.”