URI reaches out to alumni for support in budget process
State funding for the University grew in the 1960s, but by 1971 that growth had stopped. In fact, URI entered the new millennium with three percent less real state support than it had 30 years ago — a period in which the state budget had grown by 216 percent.
“We are now entering a time which will be a challenge for us to maintain positive momentum,” said URI President Robert L. Carothers at a recent meeting of the URI Alumni Government Relations Committee. The committee, one of seven committees of the URI Alumni Association, met to discuss strategies on how alumni might help to position the University and higher education as the next budget year, FY 2004, approaches.
President Carothers, Lincoln D. Almond, ’85, president of the URI Alumni Association; Anthony Leone, associate commissioner for external affairs, Office of Higher Education (OHE); and Andrea Hopkins, interim assistant vice president for public affairs, shared some staggering statistics:
•URI’s FY 2001 state budget allocation was similar to the 1950s, when URI was one-third its present size.
•The current year’s state budget (FY 2003 ) for higher education is $20 million less than the R.I. Board of Governors for Higher Education requested in its no frills budget to the state, and $12 million less than the Governor recommended.
•URI’s current year budget (FY 2003) is $9.5 million less than it requested, and $2.4 million less than the FY 2002 appropriation.
•In the current year, the state allocation to URI represents 22 percent of the University’s total budget.
“In many ways, the future of the University, RIC, and the community college, are at stake,“ stated Leone, who spoke about the upcoming election, the changing face of the General Assembly, and ways in which alumni can communicate their concerns to their representatives and elected officials.
President Carothers said “we have to set priorities in the coming year, despite these grim numbers. We want to commit to reasonable salary increases for all our employees, particularly our faculty; continue our forward movement with construction projects and infrastructure, fundamental to the long-term health of the institution; and secure full funding (annually $3.8 million) for asset protection.
“We also need matching dollars to bring in federal dollars,” Carothers added. “There are federal grants we almost can’t afford to take,” he noted. For example, the president said Rhode Island is the only state in the country which does not directly contribute state dollars to Cooperative Extension, URI’s outreach programming to the state. As a result, the University must match the federal dollars from its allocated budget.
“The state contributes 22 percent, and as such is the largest single donor to the University,” said Hopkins. “We will encourage the legislature to increase its investment in public higher education, and look for the support of alumni and friends to contact their respective senators and representatives.” Hopkins added that she will be sending out legislative alerts via email to inform the community about times in which it would be important to make those contacts. Anyone interested in more information or those who would like to receive legislative alerts may contact Hopkins at firstname.lastname@example.org.