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Penn State, Neeli Bendapudi Reveal ‘Road Map’ For Strategic Direction Of University

Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi declared six initiatives outlined as goals for the university over the next several years, including reaching a balanced budget, changing demographics in Pennsylvania, and inflationary cost increases.

Though she shared financial goals and challenges to address, Bendapudi remained committed to student prioritization, sustainable business models, excellence in teaching and learning, and continual growth. Each challenge, though, requires the need for the university to update its business model to maximize its effect, she said.

“I am proud of the work we have done together in the last year-and-a-half that has served to strengthen our University as we embark on the hard work of co-creating a sustainable future for Penn State,” Bendapudi said in a release Monday. “While we are facing considerable rising costs — like every other higher education institution across the country — we also will continue to make strategic investments where they will have the most impact on our mission and identify new revenue streams to build an even stronger future for Penn State.”

The following areas are Bendapudi’s “road map for the strategic direction of the university:”

  • The need to maintain a balanced budget, beginning fiscal year 2025-26; however, changes have already begun and will continue
  • Changing demographics in Pennsylvania
  • A projected $30 million increase in health care expenses in the fiscal year 2025-26 budget
  • The reality that 69% of the education and general funds budget is personnel costs, including salaries and benefits
  • Stagnant funding from the state and tuition rates have not kept up with inflation
  • Inflationary cost increases for goods and services necessary to its mission

“The need for change within our University is undeniable and must occur for Penn State to retain its status as a leading institution, to innovate, and to invest in greatness at scale in education and research,” Bendapudi said. “Our ability to respond to the multitude of challenges and our capacity to adapt is what will determine our success now and in the future.”

Bendapudi divulged her plans to invest more heavily in faculty and staff to ensure high-quality education and research opportunities are of importance, largely by way of a $42 million merit-based salary increase initiated for faculty and staff in the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Simultaneously, Penn State is aiming to balance the budget and continue implementing a business model focused on strengthening predictability, improving strategic allocation of resources, and maintaining access and affordability. The two-year budget allocation model was put into effect in July 2023 and relies on student enrollment, credit hours, tuition, and more for data-driven innovation.

Enrollment across Commonwealth Campuses is also prioritized by Bendapudi as satellite campuses have experienced 30% enrollment decreases since 2010. Penn State will aim to launch a dual admissions program with Pennsylvania community colleges, embrace test-optional admissions, and market Commonwealth Campuses more intentionally to first-year students.

“I am committed to working with our faculty and staff to co-create a sustainable future based on mission and performance as well as the needs of our communities and the commonwealth, our critical partners in this evolution,” Bendapudi said. “Our ultimate goal is to deliver on our greatness at scale to make Penn State the institution of choice for our current and prospective students and post-docs, the employer of choice for our faculty and staff, and the partner and investment of choice for our many external stakeholders. To do so, we must think, innovate, problem-solve and operate differently. This will take all of us, our talented students, faculty and staff, to be active participants in the changes to come — this is the only way we will be successful. We wanted to share this foundational information as an initial step. I know you will have questions and I look forward to sharing more about this vision with our community.”

More in-depth information about Bendapudi’s future road map and specific initiatives can be found here.

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About the Author

Keeley Lamm

Keeley is a junior journalism major from Richmond, Virginia, and is Onward State's managing editor. She also talks about awesome stuff on our podcast, Podward State. Keeley is a lover of grilled cheese and Kevin Jonas. If you'd like to share your thoughts on the superior Jonas Brother, feel free to contact her on Twitter @keeleylammm or send your best joke to her email [email protected].

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