Harker tells state legislators UD is a sound investment


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2:03 p.m., Feb. 5, 2010----University of Delaware President Patrick Harker told Delaware lawmakers that investing in the First State's flagship university makes sense despite budget constraints and tough economic times.

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Harker made his remarks to state legislators during a meeting of the Joint Finance Committee of the Delaware General Assembly, held Thursday, Feb.4, in Dover, Del.

“Clearly, the recession has taken a toll locally and nationally, and economic recovery will be slower than we'd hoped,” Harker said. “And yet, we find the resulting cuts to UD's budget unfortunate, primarily because we understand the impact those cuts will have not only on the University, but on the larger Delaware community.”

In noting that state funding pays dividends for both UD and beyond, Harker cited a preliminary report by UD's Center for Applied Business and Economic Research, which analyzed the economic impact of federal dollars invested in UD and recognized its continuing power as an economic engine at the local and national levels.

“According to the forecast, the $56 million in stimulus funding UD has won so far is expected to generate $160 million in economic impact nationwide,” Harker said. “The effect within Delaware is significant as well. That same $56 million should yield $98 million in-state, nearly twice the federal investment, and create more than 1,000 jobs during the life of the projects.”

Such investments, Harker said, demonstrate that the federal government recognizes that research at UD pays off in terms of economic growth potential.

The University's signing the first license for its vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology developed by Prof. Willett Kempton and Jasna Tomic, and the slated installation of a utility-scale 2-megawatt wind turbine on its Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes are examples of its leadership in job creation and sustainable energy initiatives, he said.

Harker also cited the proposed development of the recently acquired 272-acre Chrysler property as helping to generate jobs and income for the state and its residents.

“Even in our preparation for development of this property, including decommissioning, demolition and salvage work, we are providing jobs for over 100 individuals, including some former Chrysler employees,” Harker said. “And our economic impact will compound once redevelopment begins in earnest.”

The potential economic generation of the Chrysler site can be found in the performance of the Delaware Technology Park, Harker noted. Located about two miles from UD's campus, the 40-acre site housing five buildings with 200,000 square feet has attracted $250 million in investment and $300 million in grants. With 54 tenant companies, the park has had a hand in creating 16,000 jobs in the last decade, Harker said.

“Now build that out to a 272-acre parcel of land whose first phase of development, comprising just one-third of the total acreage, could yield 4 million square feet and thousands of jobs,” Harker said. “It's potential is extraordinary, and I thank the state and Gov. Markell for their support of our acquisition and redevelopment of the property.”

Also likely to be located on the former Chrysler site are several components of the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, which draws on the collective strengths and expertise of UD, Thomas Jefferson University, Christiana Care Health System and Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children.

“Already, Thomas Jefferson University is contemplating building its Health Education Campus on the property, providing clinical training for hundreds of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and occupational and physical therapists,” Harker said. “That training brings those health care workers to Delaware, puts them in our hospitals, our clinics and hour homes, and keeps many of them long after their training has ended.”

State lawmakers also were updated on the recently signed research and development agreement between UD and the U.S. Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a move that Harker said “allows both sides to collaborate more efficiently, to translate research into innovative products that benefit U.S. soldiers and, very often, civilians as well.

“Again, this interdisciplinary and inter-laboratory collaboration will generation high-tech startups and spinoffs. This is important to us, because the incubation and proliferation of businesses based on the campus' intellectual assets is a big part of our vision.”

Harker requested restoring operating and pass-through cuts to the University's budget should state revenues become available, support of the epilogue language allowing budget flexibility within the operating budgets of UD's colleges, and for additional state investment in redeveloping the former Chrysler-owned property.

Additionally, Harker urged state funding to cover domestic partner benefits, noting that “years ago, economic and social pressures moved these benefits from the margins to the mainstream, and research is finding they're a cost-effective way to optimize workforce potential.”

Commitment to Delawareans

With the financial component of UD's Commitment to Delawareans taking effect last fall, Harker noted that some 435 Delawareans, more than one-third of the in-state freshmen enrolled, shared in the $2.7 million made available through the program.

The Commitment to Delawareans ensures that UD will meet the demonstrated financial need of Delawareans up to the cost of tuition, fees, room, board and books while placing affordable limits on the requirement for student borrowing.

Beginning in 2009-2010, financial aid is being packaged so that the student loan component for incoming resident undergraduate students will not exceed an affordable level over four years for all in-state undergraduates, and efforts will be made to keep student loan amounts modest for out-of-state residents. The in-state loan cap is part of UD's Commitment to Delawareans that student loans will be limited by supplementing the cost of attending UD with grants and/or work-study positions based on need.

“The number of Delaware students admitted to UD this past fall increased by 12 percent over last year, and the number enrolled increased by 24 percent,” Harker said. “The number of in-state applicants for this fall is up over 7 percent, and last year reflected a 12 percent jump over the previous years.”

The number of total applications -- 25,259 to date -- also represents a one-year, 7 percent increase, with SATs, grade point averages and class rankings all at record levels, Harker said.

“With students like these, students who will themselves lead Delaware to greater prominence and prosperity, one can't help but be optimistic for the future,” Harker said. “Through our academic programs and research and service opportunities we are enhancing the skill set of Delawareans and educating people for future career and lifestyle successes.”

Harker concluded by thanking legislators for their support and invited members of the Joint Finance Committee and their guests to visit UD and see firsthand the economic promise and commitment that an investment in UD represents.

Article by Jerry Rhodes