4. Education: Pitt and CMU will continue their two decades-long journey to the upper echelons of the international higher education community. The dollar value of sponsored research at both Pitt and CMU will continue to increase; their respective endowments will begin slow recoveries. The tuition tax debate of 2009 will enable the emergence (or in some cases, re-emergence) of Pittsburgh’s “second tier” of colleges and universities as leading voices on the future of region’s economy and culture: Duquesne, Robert Morris, Chatham, Carlow, Point Park. Negotiations over nonprofit contributions to the city’s finances, in the wake of the tuition tax détente will reach another crisis point in 2010 before a deal is reached.Helpfully for me, in that paragraph I threw out a series of "predictions" that are barely measurable, let alone quantifiable. How did I do?
Have Pitt and CMU continued their onward and upward marches? From the standpoint of academic reputation, prestige, scholarly accomplishment, impact on their communities, and quality of their incoming and outgoing students -- I think so, but at the margins there is certainly room for debate. At Pitt, the problem is complicated each year by the fact that substantial portions of the Pittsburgh region -- and big chunks of the university itself -- think of Pitt primarily as the home of an outstanding men's basketball team and an underperforming football team. The universities marked some impressive continuity and transition at the top: Mark Nordenberg continues an impressively and succesfully long tenure as Chancellor at Pitt; long-serving Provost James Maher was succeeded by an internal candidate, Patricia Beeson. (As a faculty member, I can report that the new Provost has her foot on the gas, which is a good thing.) The Pitt Board's decision to top up compensation at the senior levels rankled, however, particularly in light of the university's protests over a tuition tax. At CMU, Jared Cohon announced that his current term -- his third -- will continue through the middle of 2013. Such long service by such successful leaders in higher education is nearly unprecedented and certainly contributes to both universities' progress -- and to the region's reputation for high quality research -- over the last 10/15 years.
On finances, I don't have figures at hand to quantify the amount of sponsored research or endowment gains (or losses) at either school as of the year-end. A couple of mid-year snapshots help. As of the end of November 2010, Pitt researchers had been awarded more than $200 million in federal stimulus money alone. Pitt's reported sponsored research went from $672mm in FY09 to more than $750mm in FY10. At CMU, the numbers were $268mm and $277mm, respectively. Looking at that same link for information about CMU's endowment, and this report for information about Pitt, it looks like both schools had a bit of bounce in their step during FY2010. Full marks to me on this score, I think, but this was something of a gimme.
What about the emergence or re-emergence of Pittsburgh's "other" colleges and universities? Each of them, in different respects, saw some big "wins" in 2010 -- I'm mostly interested in entrepreneurship and economic development efforts, both in curriculum and in programming -- though it's difficult to say that individually or as a group they've stepped up to compete with Pitt or CMU for mind-share in the region. Zero marks here.
What about nonprofit contributions to the city's budget? There wasn't a crisis over this in 2010, probably because the city's budget faced a different crisis -- pension funding, as to which parking revenues did and then did not supply a (partial) solution. But that doesn't mean that the nonprofit contribution question is a dead letter. Far from it. The can was kicked down the road, as it were; expect this topic to make some news in 2011. So zero marks here, too. But stay tuned.
In total: One mark here out of a possible three, but there's some fuzzy math involved.