Moving forward in difficult times

As we complete the academic year, I would like to provide you with an update on the impact of the financial crisis on Cornell. The Board of Trustees met in May and approved a budget that, with some sacrifices, allows us to maintain the current quality of the Cornell experience and gives us the opportunity to plan for the future.

This was a difficult budget to assemble. We faced a significant loss of endowment income and cost increases in many areas. We also faced a gap of $1.5 million between projected income and expenditures late in the budget preparation process. We were able to arrive at a balanced budget, but only after eliminating some positions and making reductions in salaries and benefits for faculty and staff.

Preserving the quality of our academic and co-curricular programs has been a guiding principle in the budget process. To that end, no services or functions of the college are being lost, and all duties impacting the student experience will be reassigned. I greatly appreciate the sacrifices being made by members of the faculty and staff that enable us to continue to serve our students well.

I also appreciate the goodwill and energy students have invested in the college during the year. Their commitment is a source of optimism for the future. It is especially gratifying that the families of our returning students continue to invest in the quality of a Cornell education. We also received a record number of applicants for admission and will be welcoming a talented class of new students to campus. As we look forward to next year, we will refine our plans to grow to an enrollment of at least 1,200 students and will look aggressively for ways that we can enhance the quality and value of a Cornell education in the most cost effective ways available to us.

The Extraordinary Opportunities Campaign continues to make progress toward its goal of $92 million. We anticipate meeting or exceeding that goal by the targeted end date of the campaign in December 2009, evidence of the dedication of our alumni and friends. The campaign has secured commitments of more than $88 million with better than $40 million of that total toward the endowment. The recent challenge from Board Chair John Smith ’71 and his wife Dyan is designed to accelerate the payment of those pledges so that we can rebuild the endowment as quickly as possible.

This has been a challenging year for Cornell, as it has been for other colleges. In my 15 years here, I have learned that the dedication of the faculty, staff, alumni, and students is one of the college’s great assets. This year, the community has again stepped forward to sustain Cornell in a difficult time and has given us the opportunity to look to the future with confidence.


Thank you for all you do for Cornell,

Les Garner signature

Les Garner, President

More responses to the economy by President Garner