Dear Friend of Indiana University:

A scan of the headlines regarding higher education today will yield many stories about the increasing cost of a college education and the implications of rising debt among students. Inevitably, this issue also has spawned a related discussion about the value of a college education, leading some to openly question whether college is worth the cost.

I am proud to say that affordability has been a top priority at Indiana University throughout my tenure as president. Still, we realize that we can – and should – do more to keep the cost of attendance as low as possible, especially given the economic challenges facing many of our students and their families today.

That sentiment was the impetus behind our recommendation, approved by the IU Trustees, to broaden our tuition control efforts by freezing tuition for all Indiana resident undergraduate students on our IU Bloomington campus for the next two years.  This comes on the heels of modest increases for the previous two-year tuition cycle that were the lowest in 40 years. 

Indeed, IU Bloomington students enjoy the lowest average net cost of attendance among any university in the Big Ten, and the campus has repeatedly been singled out as a “best buy” among colleges by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and other media for the combination of academic quality and moderate cost. 

In addition to the resident student tuition freeze at IU Bloomington, we held increases for other students as low as possible. Non-resident undergraduates at IU Bloomington will see their tuition increase by 1.5 percent for the next two years, while tuition for all undergraduates at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and IU’s five regional campuses will increase by an average of 1.65 percent, which is consistent with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s guidelines on tuition.

Graduate school tuition increases for Indiana residents will vary by school but will average about 2 percent on our Bloomington and Indianapolis campuses and 3 percent at our regional campuses. Some graduate programs, such as the IU Maurer School of Law, have chosen to freeze tuition for the next two years.

In fact, over the past four years, IU students have been able to take advantage of a number of initiatives explicitly designed to reduce their costs of attendance, while at the same time encouraging them to graduate in four years – or less – whenever possible.

For example, our Finish in Four program launched two years ago has frozen tuition for more than 18,000 IU students who were on track to graduate in four years after their sophomore year. This summer marks the third year that students on our regional campuses have received a 25 percent discount on resident tuition rates during the summer session.

In addition, the credit hours cap on the flat-fee tuition rate for full time students at IU Bloomington was increased from 17 to 18 hours last year, essentially allowing students to take an additional class each semester at no additional cost.

In addition to these tuition control efforts IU has put in place a student financial literacy program that has attracted national attention for its innovation and effectiveness. This program has helped reduce undergraduate student borrowing across the university by nearly 16 percent over two years, resulting in approximately $44 million in debt savings to students.

Appreciative of increased state support

Our broad commitment to little or no tuition increase was made possible in part by greater state appropriations over the next two years due largely to IU’s strong showing under the performance metrics established by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.

Indeed, state leaders have called upon Indiana’s public universities and colleges to produce more Hoosier graduates who have the skills necessary to succeed in today’s global job markets. IU has answered that call and we are most appreciative of the resulting funding support from the Indiana General Assembly.

Over the past three years, IU has accounted for 63 percent of the net increase in all bachelor’s degrees awarded by the state’s public higher educational institutions, 68 percent of the increase in all on-time degrees and 79 percent of the total increase in all high-impact degrees, such as those offered in STEM-related disciplines. And this year, more than 20,000 students received IU degrees across the state, a record number for the university.

These statistics reflect some of the many ways in which IU is committed to the people of the state of Indiana as well as the enormous impact the university has on the economic and intellectual wellbeing of our state.

Fiscal year 2016 budget includes salary increases

The IU Board of Trustees at their most recent meeting also approved the university’s $3.27 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1. This is a 3.7 percent increase from the current year.

I am pleased to say that the operating budget includes merit-based salary increases for faculty and staff based on a 2 percent salary pool increase across the university. It also includes minimum wage rates increases to $10 an hour for eligible support and service staff and $9 an hour for temporary employees.

In addition, individual operating units had the discretion to distribute up to an additional 1.5 percent of their salary budget to high-performing employees for a total of up to 3.5 percent, but any such increases had to be offset by unit-specific operational savings.

Our faculty and staff are our greatest assets and I am very glad we are able to continue to reward them for their dedicated and outstanding efforts.

The achievements of this academic year

The 2014-15 fiscal year ends tomorrow. It has been a memorable year with some extraordinary achievements and announcements that will shape the face of Indiana University for decades to come.

  • We have seen our wonderful faculty, staff and their schools win accolades and awards too numerous to list.
  • We have seen record numbers of IU graduates and record crowds at their graduations.
  • We have seen the first highly successful year of one of our new schools, the Media School, under the leadership of its foundational dean Jim Shanahan.
  • We saw just a few days ago the formal accreditation of our two new schools of public health at Indianapolis and Bloomington whose deans, faculty and staff deserve our heartiest congratulations for this wonderful achievement.
  • We saw the opening of our Global Gateway offices in Beijing and New Delhi and record numbers of both international students attending IU and of our students studying abroad. And this week faculty and staff from the School of Global and International Studies will start to move into their magnificent new building.
  • In partnership with IU Health we saw the decision taken to build two new academic health centers, including one on the campus of IU Bloomington.
  • We have seen a steady increase in the number of patents and new start-up companies arising out of the inventions and innovation of IU faculty and staff. In fact, the Indianapolis Star published just last weekend a guest column from me on this topic, which you might find of interest.
  • And we are seeing more repairs, renovations and construction than at possibly any time in the university’s history – all aimed at improving and enhancing even more the vital contributions that IU makes to the state of Indiana in education and research.

So it has been a remarkable year. I hope many of you can take some well earned rest over the summer and enjoy time with family and friends as we all prepare for what will be, I am sure, yet another exciting academic year starting in August.

My thanks again to the whole university community for your superb efforts this year and my best wishes for a relaxing summer.

With best regards,

Michael A. McRobbie