Challenges and Opportunities

While the academic reputation of the University has been advancing, state support has been diminishing. In fiscal year 2001, the commonwealth appropriation was approximately 16 percent of Pitt’s annual budget, and by fiscal year 2011, it was less than 10 percent. In response to this situation, the University had already made operational efficiency a long-term priority, which is reflected in staged actions over recent years such as budget cuts, the redesign of benefits plans, cost-reduction initiatives, successful efforts to increase productivity, and the imposition of University-wide salary freezes.

Following this decade of diminishing support, on March 8, 2011, the governor proposed cuts totaling more than $100 million, or 52 percent of the appropriation. Negotiations within the legislature resulted in a partial restoration of these funds and a net decline in the commonwealth appropriation of more than $40 million or 22 percent.

The University has benefited from stable leadership, flourishing under the guidance of Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and former Provost James Maher, who retired in 2010. The Chancellor and most of his senior staff have been in place for a full decade, and the average tenure of deans and campus presidents is about nine years.

The University made a smooth transition to a new Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor when Dr. Patricia E. Beeson, the former vice provost for undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, was appointed Provost in June 2010. In her first year as Provost, Dr. Beeson developed a vision for building on the University’s continuing momentum, including a plan to guide Pitt’s global and international initiatives. A national leader on assessment and an early proponent of its implementation on the Pitt campuses, the Provost was the coordinator of University-wide academic assessment in her previous role.

Despite the present fiscal realities, University leaders are confident that Pitt will advance and are committed to investing in the programmatic excellence that has come to distinguish the University of Pittsburgh. This confidence is based on the strong role that planning, budgeting, and assessment have played throughout these past decades and because of the good practices now in place that will enable the University to build on its momentum in a focused and purposeful manner.