March 10-23, 2000
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Researchers seek objective way to diagnose attention disorder
Law School dedicates bust of alumnus Robert F. Kennedy
Funding the University's future

In Memoriam

Biological Timing Center turns on high schoolers' interest in research
NSF looking to fund new centers
Hetherington's groundbreaking work shows how families cope with divorce
Faculty Actions - from the Feb. Board of Visitors meeting
U.Va.-Wise professor wins Outstanding Faculty Award
Hot Links - Mountain Lake Biological Station
Spring Break

Funding the University's future

By Anne Bromley

The billion-dollar campaign has launched U.Va. into a higher level of excellence, but "where do we go from here?" asked Robert D. Sweeney, vice president for development, during the most recent Board of Visitors meeting.

Although the Campaign for the University has reached its $1 billion goal, there is most of the year left before the formal end, and it's important to look at the University's needs "beyond a billion," said Sweeney.

His office is currently concentrating on showing donors and the University community what their gifts have made possible. For example, a series of ads highlights the people who are benefitting from gifts that established endowed chairs, fellowships and institutes. The ads are being placed in Alumni News, student publications, and at halftime during televised U.Va. games.

The University is planning gatherings with alumni and friends to get them involved in thinking about what's needed for the next five years and beyond, he said.

At the board meeting, Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer, outlined some possibilities. The University must decide whether to be satisfied reaching for and maintaining the spot as the top public university (U.S. News and World Report ranked it as the No. 2 public and No. 22 overall last fall) or aspire to be among the 15 or so institutions.

"We're going to have to run pretty hard to remain the top public university. ... It's not practical to think we can be in the top tier in five years," said Sandridge, with the exception of the Darden and Law schools.

"All the deans have high aspirations and are trying to improve. ... None is satisfied with maintaining the status quo," he added.

There is "no perfect way to measure an institution," Sandridge acknowledged, but the rankings can help with some checkpoints for comparison and factors that can be addressed. When it comes to U.S. News, "a lot of future students pay attention to it," he said, so it can't be ignored.

Top universities in that ranking are also among the best in the National Research Council's rankings of graduate programs, which come out every 10 years. He noted that while the strongest universities average 16 programs in the NRC's top 10, in 1995 U.Va. had only five programs at that level. They were in only two of the five disciplinary categories, with none in physical sciences, engineering or social and behavioral sciences.

Targeting improvements to science and engineering programs is key to boosting U.Va.'s academic reputation, Sandridge said. "This is a direct reason the president set up the [Virginia 2020] Science and Technology Commission."

Other schools including Duke, Johns Hopkins and Yale, have recently announced major campaigns to strengthen their science programs and facilities.

Projecting the comparison between U.Va. and its peers five years from now, it looks like U.Va. will continue to have a lower educational expenditure per student and lower state support for in-state students, Sandridge said. U.Va. is currently experiencing a greater drop in graduate enrollment than the national trend (not including U.Va.'s professional schools) and is constrained by a serious lack of research space.

The greatest room for improvement is in educational expenditure per student, he said. If the needed resources can be raised, that would allow for improvements in the University's academic reputation, faculty compensation, hiring of full-time faculty, class size and student/faculty ratio.

The projected gap in spending per student between U.Va. and other top public schools in 2004-05 is $174 million annually, a figure that swells to $402 million when the comparison is to the top tier of all schools. The University's annual giving has grown to more than $130 million, and the Development Office estimates it could double that amount as an attainable fundraising goal.

"It's achievable to get to $260 million per year over the next five years, Sandridge and Sweeney said. Less than half of that, however, would likely go toward educational expenditures. Funds for scholarships and building projects are not included in that group.

"This is a revenue-driven model," pointed out Laurie Kelsh, who recently took the helm of a new central planning and assessment unit in the president's office. "We will also look at expenditures and how we discipline our spending. We think we're pretty lean now."


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