University Politics

Syracuse University officials provide few updates during first Invest Syracuse forum

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

(From left) Cathryn Newton, Amir Rahnamay-Azar, Michele Wheatly, Dolan Evanovich and Matt Ter Molen gathered for the first Invest Syracuse public forum, taking questions and input from the audience.

Syracuse University officials at a public forum on Tuesday provided few new details on Invest Syracuse, a five-year fundraising initiative that aims to raise $100 million to fund academic programs.

Invest Syracuse is a “funding vehicle for the existing Academic Strategic Plan and unit plans in schools and colleges,” SU Vice Chancellor and Provost Michele Wheatly said at the forum.

The Academic Strategic Plan is one section of Chancellor Kent Syverud’s flagship Fast Forward Syracuse initiative, which outlines broad long-term goals for the university.

Amir Rahnamay-Azar, senior vice president and chief financial officer, Dolan Evanovich, senior vice president for enrollment and the student experience, and Matt Ter Molen, senior vice president and chief advancement officer, also spoke at the forum.

A mix of about 75 students and faculty members attended the event, asking a range of questions about Invest Syracuse fundraising goals. The forum was hosted in Goldstein Auditorium at Schine Student Center.

Cathryn Newton, special adviser to the Chancellor and Provost for Faculty Engagement moderated the event. She is also dean emerita of the College of Arts and Sciences and a professor of earth sciences and interdisciplinary sciences.

There will be two other Invest Syracuse forums on Sept. 20 and Oct. 3. Newton said the forums were open to public question and comment and urged members of the SU community to attend.

Wheatly called the initiative a “shared vision” between students, faculty, staff and administration.

There are three components to the funding plan for Invest Syracuse, Rahnamay-Azar said, including a tuition hike that will start next year for SU first-year and transfer students.

A $3,300 Invest Syracuse tuition premium will be added to first-year and transfer student tuition next year.

Reducing administrative spending requires the university find “efficiencies” within its administrative structure and redirecting those funds to the academic and student experience, Rahnamay-Azar said.

Finding efficiencies is determining if a task needs to occur anymore, and if it does need to occur, finding how it can be done more efficiently, Rahnamay-Azar said.

Rahnamay-Azar was appointed SU’s senior vice president and chief financial officer in January.

“I’ve been at many universities where they take a strategic planning effort and it goes nowhere. Because, unless you fund it and find ways to progress it and advance it, it’s just a plan. So this is exciting to be here at this time at the university,” Rahnamay-Azar said.

Fundraising efforts by the university are “tripartite,” Evanovich said. The largest component of the funding will come from fundraising through “an intensive philanthropic campaign,” he said.

SU’s fundraising efforts will target corporations, foundations, alumni, parents and others interested in donating to the university, Molen said. Donations from corporations would most likely go toward specific research projects, so support for financial aid and scholarships would be minimal, he said.

The Class of 2022, freshmen next year, would pay more than $13,000 in premium costs if it takes them four years to graduate, due to the new $3,300 Invest Syracuse premium.

Students enrolled at SU this year will be grandfathered in and will not pay the extra money. Tuition for the 2018-19 academic year will be $50,230 for first-year and transfer students, if including a separate 3.9 percent tuition hike that still needs Board of Trustees approval. Tuition was $46,930 this academic year.

Room and board rates will remain flat for the incoming class of fall 2017, Rahnamay-Azar said.

Wheatly said SU wants to expand opportunities for students across the socio-economic spectrum. Molen also said the university plans to launch a “mini campaign” called “Opportunity Syracuse,” a $40 million initiative to raise funds for student scholarships.

The Opportunity Syracuse money will be raised over the current and next fiscal years — 2018 and 2019 — for financial aid. Fundraising has already begun, with $5.25 million gifted by alumni Dan and Kathy Mezzalingua on Tuesday and $500,000 a year donated by Steve Barnes, chairman of SU’s Board of Trustees, and his wife Deborah.

SU plans to hire 100 new faculty, along with additional support staff for the faculty, as part of Invest Syracuse.

The hiring will not only include faculty in STEM fields, but will encompass a broad range of disciplines, Wheatly said.

Jamie Winders, chair of the department of geography in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, asked if the new hires would be on tenure-track lines, versus research or strictly teaching positions.

Teaching professors are responsible almost exclusively for teaching, and research professors assume research roles and often bring in their own funding, Winders said.

Many faculty members pursue tenure-track lines like her, she said. Tenure tracks are defined as an employment structure where the employee is guaranteed a consideration for eventual tenure.

Wheatly said most of the newly hired faculty will be on tenure-track lines, but the line shares would be faculty focused on scholarship and creativity.

A powerpoint slide presented by Evanovich detailed goals and priorities of enhancing the student experience at SU, including:

  • Providing comprehensive academic and career guidance and support
  • Plans to better address mental health, physical well-being and spiritual needs
  • Ensuring every student has at least one global learning experience by providing need-based financial aid
  • Form a networking community with alumni, academic and career advising and advancement office in schools and colleges to provide internship and career opportunities to students

“Invest Syracuse provides the resources to help make our great university even better and to provide an unsurpassed experience both inside and outside the classroom,” Evanovich said.

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