Annual Statement for the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee

I am honored to be here today and representing the University of Pittsburgh before this committee.   

Last year, Pitt marked 50 years of partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by looking back on our shared successes and highlighting our University’s distinct contributions. Today, I’d like to reverse this vantage point and look toward the future.  

Our students are poised—now more than ever—to succeed. Our Class of 2020 arrived with an average test score of 1309 and an average GPA of 4.01. These numbers afford our freshmen bragging rights as the most academically accomplished incoming class in our University’s history.

Our University is similarly positioned to excel. The Wall Street Journal has named Pitt the “Top Public University in the Northeast.” U.S. News & World Report ranked us among the top 50 universities in the world. And we’re both a leading producer of Fulbright Scholars and a leading recipient of research funds received from the National Institutes of Health. We’ve also earned recognition—for 12 consecutive years—as a best value in the state by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

On our campuses, we continue to expand academic opportunities through cutting-edge programs. Some of many examples: Both our School of Computing and Information and our Institute for Cyber Law, Policy, and Security will welcome students in July 2017. In addition, our Katz School of Business is partnering with UPMC to offer an Executive MBA in Health Care, and we’ve recently opened the ANSYS Additive Manufacturing Research Laboratory, home to some of the most advanced devices in manufacturing today.     

Pitt’s positive impact also extends far beyond our physical footprint, which includes regional campus communities in Bradford, Greensburg, Johnstown, and Titusville. Each year, our University contributes $3.9 billion to our economy, giving Pennsylvania a $26 return for every appropriation dollar received. And each year, Pitt draws more than $700 million in external research funds, we support and sustain nearly 30,000 jobs, and we generate $187 million in local and state tax revenue.  

Our partnerships are also growing. Recent collaborations include an initiative with Bayer to advance research on heart, lung, and blood disease; a lead role in the RAPID Manufacturing Institute to examine the use of natural gas in advanced manufacturing; and a new private-public venture called the Energy Grid Research and Infrastructure Development Institute, which aims to improve our nation’s power and energy infrastructure.

In December, we joined forces with the Community College of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh Public Schools to create and support a clear pathway for local youth to earn a college degree. We’ve also partnered with Raise.me to establish a micro-scholarship program that enables high-school students to turn their achievements into money for college. And we’ve joined the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success to connect with high school students who might otherwise have overlooked our University as a viable next step.  

Later this summer, we are opening our first of three planned Community Engagement Centers. These centers will launch a new era of community-university collaboration by leveraging Pitt programs and research to address complex neighborhood challenges. This work will build on our University’s long history of community partnership and service, which spans 17,000 individuals contributing 470,000 combined hours of service for nearly 300 nonprofits and community groups.

In addition, we continue to grow our role as a community leader and steward. In 2016, we launched Buildings Blocks, a program aimed at widening the professional circles and skill sets of local women and minority contractors. We also hosted a matchmaking event between buyers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and 150 small and disadvantaged business owners and representatives from throughout the region. And our Small Business Development Center continues to offer focused services for displaced coal workers who are seeking to jumpstart their own business. 

These examples are part of an expansive catalog of accomplishments—and points of great pride on Pitt's path forward. But now, faced with too many milestones and too little time, I will end with this: 

Pitt is a powerful and vital economic engine for the state and part of a cohort of public research universities in Pennsylvania that can help strengthen our economy, even during challenging times.

Throughout my tenure as the chancellor of Pitt, the commonwealth has supported essential reinvestments in Pennsylvania’s public research universities. These reinvestments are a welcome change and follow a perilous and protracted period of reduced or flat funding for state public higher education. While I believe that these reinvestments must become the rule—and not an exception—I recognize the unprecedented challenges facing the commonwealth this fiscal year, and I support Governor Tom Wolf’s proposal to flat-line funding for state-related universities.

I offer this support in the spirit of partnership and with every hope that, moving forward, we are able to create and initiate a multiyear funding framework that invests in the future of our students, our economy and our commonwealth.

Thank you, again, for your time today and for your indispensable partnership. I look forward to continuing to work with you to build a stronger, brighter future for our commonwealth and all of its great citizens.