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Buffalo State on its way to raising $20 million over next three years

Buffalo State College has set a goal to raise $20 million over the next three years, as part of the school's first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

The good news for the college is it's two-thirds of the way there.

Buffalo State formally kicked off the fundraising campaign Friday in the Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall, when officials revealed that $13 million has been raised since July 1, 2011, during the silent phase of the campaign.

That includes a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor for the renovated Whitworth-Ferguson Planetarium, which will be in the new Science and Mathematics Complex.

The college also received $750,000 from local real estate construction executive Louis P. Ciminelli for its music department.

"This campaign will touch on all parts of campus and the student experience – from scholarships to enhanced learning spaces," said Buffalo State President Aaron Podolefsky.

While the college does raise funds annually from alumni and other donors, it has never conducted a comprehensive, multi-year campaign, officials said.

But Buffalo State – as well as public colleges and universities throughout the State University at New York system – is trying to step up fundraising efforts at a time when state dollars are dwindling.

"The campaign is about impact," said Susanne P. Blair, vice president for institutional advancement, "creating more scholarships for students, enhancing opportunities to study abroad, increasing student research and supporting our faculty with equipment and experience they need to be great teachers and scholars."

The announcement about the college's historic fundraising campaign was just one of the new developments on the Elmwood Avenue campus this week.

Podolefsky announced during his annual State of the College address Thursday that Buffalo State is looking to bolster the ranks of its full-time faculty over the next few years, now that its budget is a bit more stable.

"You have to go back to 1997 to find the high of 433 full-time faculty," he said. "In between, we have been as low as 376 in 2001. It is time to reverse that trend."

Podolefsky set a goal of reaching – or surpassing – that high mark by hiring 30 new full-time faculty, or a minimum of 10 a year, over the next three years.

The college already has made progress on that front, too.

Buffalo State hired 25 faculty members this fall – 13 of which were new positions – increasing the number of full-time faculty to 416, up from 403 last year, according to Provost Dennis Ponton.

More faculty hiring is possible now, thanks to tuition increases and promises by the state to maintain a consistent level of funding, after several rocky budget cycles, Ponton said.

Faculty additions over the next few years should reduce the college's reliance on part-time instructors to a "more appropriate balance," Podolefsky said.