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FAQ about the Cornell University Budget

Will the external hiring pause continue? For what period of time? Has its criteria changed at all?

The colleges and units will continue to review all positions and make careful determinations about which positions must be filled at all, especially those that may need to be filled with external candidates. We expect such scrutiny to continue as appropriate for the foreseeable future.

Will the construction pause continue? For what period of time? Have the criteria for approving projects changed?

The construction pause ended June 30, but the review, assessment and approval procedures established during the construction pause will become standard operating procedure for the university moving forward. The criteria remain the same: In order to be approved, a construction project must be deemed critical to either the mission of the university or the life and safety of the campus community, and it must have an approved funding plan, with the appropriate resources identified and available.

What is the current value of the endowment? How has that changed since December 2008, when it was reported that the endowment had lost 27 percent in the first six months of fiscal year 2009 (FY09)?

We won't have a fully reported number on the endowment until September. The approximate value of the endowment as of the end of June is $4.1 billion, but this is provisional, since the full reports on all assets aren't in yet. We expect the decline in the endowment for FY09 to come in somewhere between 27 and 30 percent.

Are there plans to further reduce the endowment payout rate?

As planned, the endowment payout rate was reduced 15 percent for FY10, and we are planning to reduce this payout rate further next year (FY11), given the loss in endowment market value experienced this year.

There is an institutional planning process that will create a comprehensive five-year strategy to tie together goals for the institution, academics and the budget. Any report or update on that strategic planning process? How will that affect budget planning for FY11?

For information about all aspects of the strategic planning process, go to the new web site, "Reimagining Cornell," at

How much money was saved through the use of the Staff Retirement Incentive (SRI)? Of the 432 positions affected, how many were refilled, and what happened with the positions that were not refilled?

The SRI gave colleges and units the opportunity to reduce payroll costs through voluntary reductions. In some cases these reductions are being used to meet the FY10 budget target. In other cases these vacancies will permit colleges and units to reduce their payroll costs in FY11. The precise dollar savings are not known at this time.

How many layoffs are predicted at the university in FY10?

We anticipate that workforce changes in FY10 will be driven by the work occurring in the many committees and teams involved in planning across the university. Once the planning processes have been completed, we will have a better sense of where changes need to occur and what impact these changes will have on staff positions.

How many layoffs did the university have in FY09? How does that compare with the number of layoffs in FY08?

By the end of January 2010 the university had approved 308 layoff actions through the institutional review process. About 30 of these staff were eligible for, and chose to take, the SRI. While we expect the need for workforce reductions to continue, it remains our goal to seek alternatives to layoffs whenever possible. Alternatives include providing options for part time work and continuing to scrutinize every open position before deciding to refill it. When layoffs are necessary, we will continue to provide support services that aid affected staff in seeking new employment. In FY08 there were 62 staff actually placed on layoff status where as in FY09 there were 84. From July 1, 2009 through the end of January 2010 there have been 76 staff placed on layoff status.

Were there any layoffs or job cuts among faculty in FY09, and are any planned in FY10?

There were no layoffs among tenure-track faculty this past year, but colleges did cancel some faculty searches and left some vacant faculty positions open. This will continue into FY10 as the planning processes help us determine our priorities for the coming years.

What was the staff turnover rate in FY09? How does that compare with FY08?

Staff turnover had been running at about the same rate in FY09 as it was in FY08—about 7 percent. That number went up at the end of the year with the retirements of those who accepted the SRI, raising it to 12% for banded staff.

Was giving to the university down or flat during the past year, and what philanthropic activity do you see moving forward?

The Cornell Annual Fund is up a remarkable 7 percent from last year—a real tribute to the dedication of our alumni and friends. Our overall cash number will be the best in Cornell's history, surpassing last year's record amount of $409 million by $35 million to $45 million. However, new pledge commitments are likely to be down by 50 percent from last year's record results.

Cornell's capital campaign, launched in November 2006, is continuing, but in our efforts, we are being sensitive to the economic stress that our generous donors may be under. As of May 31, 2009, the campaign total was $2.46 billion—$1.52 billion for the Ithaca campus, and $940 million for Weill Cornell Medical College—toward a total campaign goal of $4 billion.

As we move forward, the crucial importance of Cornell's campaign and what it supports at the university remains: augmenting need-based student financial aid; supporting the development of our faculty; and gaining appropriate philanthropy for academic facilities.