WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - Purdue leaders presented several important topics to the Purdue Senate Monday afternoon.
President Mitch Daniels started by sharing his goal of bringing commercial air service to Tippecanoe County. At about 70 miles away from the Indianapolis International Airport, Purdue is at the bottom of the Big 10 schools list for distance away from a commercial airport, and he wants to change that.
He said the county, the City of West Lafayette and the university have been making important strides over the past few years to prepare for such an endeavor.
He began with the State Street renovation, a collaborative project between Purdue and West Lafayette to improve the connection between the two entities, as well as the connection to the Lafayette side of the Wabash. It improved transportation safety and brought new business to the center of West Lafayette.
State Street improvement has led to the buildup of the Discovery Park District, Research Park and the Aerospace District. All have brought jobs, people and prominent corporations to West Lafayette, such as SAAB, Bayer and Rolls-Royce. Those corporations are putting investment back into Purdue undergraduate and graduate students by offering training, internships and experience.
All have contributed the county's population to grow. President Daniels presented data to the Senate showing Tippecanoe County's population has steadily grown over the past decade. The U.S. Census Bureau reports the county's population was around 172,000 in 2010, and had grown to 195,000 by 2019.
President Daniels wants to pursue federal grants to help bring commercial flights to the Purdue Airport. However, population size dictates that ability, and currently, Tippecanoe County is still not where it needs to be to get approval. He hopes that attracting a few more SAAB-caliber businesses to the area would solidify the community's case for commercial air service.
After his presentation, Purdue CFO Chris Ruhl also presented a financial update to the Senate.
He said the university's plan this fiscal year is to sacrifice any budget surplus and instead break even. They expect about $2.09 billion in revenue and expenses.
COVID has caused Purdue to shift some of its budget focus. Ruhl said the Protect Purdue Center has gotten a significant amount of funding. He said funding is down overall by about 3% from Fiscal Year 20.
However, stimulus money from the federal government has helped. The university put $11.3 million of the CARES Act money towards student aid, and another $11.3 million towards COVID expenses. The plan for most recent stimulus passed by congress this month is to put another $11.3 million towards student aid and $21.2 million towards COVID expenses.
Some potential risks Ruhl listed include student enrollment and retention, which he said so far are on par with the previous year. A prolonged recession and decrease in philanthropy are also potential concerns.
Some opportunities the university is looking at though include growth in online classes, shifting to more virtual work, Purdue Global increasing its operating income and more federal grants.
Some goals the university has for Fiscal Year 21 are to resume merit raises for staff, hire more faculty and continue the tuition freeze.
The next Purdue Senate meeting will be on February 15th.