Friday, May 30, 2008

"You'll never wonder if you could have done more."

Is the Glass Half Full or Is It Half Empty?

"Our future looks incredibly bright, and these rankings provide us with even more incentive to keep raising [the] bar," she [Kathie Taranto] said.

Mr. B. has previously posted on the local medical arms race involving children's hospitals [Children as pawns...] as has a faculty member in the School of Journalism. This new US News ranking breaks with past ones in that more than just reputation is taken into consideration. Two institutions in the state of Minnesota are ranked: Children's Hospital and Clinic of Minnesota (Minneapolis) and the Mayo Clinic.

From the Daily:

U children's hospital highly ranked

Fairview was ranked the 18th-best respiratory-care facility among children's hospitals nationwide and the 19th-best cancer-care facility in the nation.

the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, Fairview has been placed in the top 20 by two rankings of national children's hospitals conducted by U.S. News and World Report.

According to the report, Fairview is the 18th best respiratory-care facility among children's hospitals nationwide. It was also ranked the 19th best cancer-care facility in the nation.

In a statement, Fairview's Chief Operating Officer Kathie Taranto said the honor was well-earned by the staff of the hospital.

"Our future looks incredibly bright, and these rankings provide us with even more incentive to keep raising [the] bar," she said.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was ranked first for overall pediatrics and first in three of the six categories; Fairview was not in the top 30 for overall rankings.

The rankings include six different categories, cancer, digestive disorders, respiratory disorders, neurology and neurosurgery, heart and heart surgerys and neonatal care.

For anyone interested, the top thirty are:

1. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
2. Children's Hospital Boston
3. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
4. Children's Hospital, Denver
5. Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cleveland
6. Texas Children's Hospital, Houston
7. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
8. New York-Presbyterian Univ. Hosp. of Columbia and Cornell
9. Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle
10. Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, Palo Alto, Calif.
11. Children's National Medical Center, Washington, D.C.
12. Columbus Children's Hospital
13. Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
14. Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
15. St. Louis Children's Hospital
16. UCSF Children's Hospital, San Francisco
17. Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
18. Primary Children's Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
19. Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
20. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis
21. Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, Los Angeles
22. University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, Ann Arbor
23. Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville
24. Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
25. Children's Memorial Hospital, Chicago
26. Miami Children's Hospital
27. Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis
28. Children's Medical Center Dallas
29. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
30. Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

So what does it all mean?

It would appear that Children's Hospital and Mayo have a leg up on BigU and that their operations are well regarded.

Milwaukee Children's Hospital is right up there with them.

As was also published in US News this year, the University of Minnesota Hospital does not seem to have its pediatrics operation where it should be - at least in this evaluation, which a lot of people consider in choosing hospitals. (Click this link to find a downloadable pdf file about where we stand.)

Perhaps the money (is it $150 million?) planned to be used for a new building could have been better spent bucking up the pediatrics operation? I thought pediatricians worked at hospitals for children? To be fair, since Fairview owns the University hospital, we may have less to say about this than before the sell-out.

Parting thought: Given the rankings I think that the advert at the top is incredibly tacky and not worthy of an institution aspiring to greatness.

Guilting the parents of sick children is out of line.

If you don't take your child to one of the top thirty children's hospitals in the country, maybe you might wonder if perhaps you could have done more?

Especially since two of them are within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities and Milwaukee is not really that far away.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Cheese Stands Alone...

From the Pioneer Planet:

The U is now officially alone, and an influential lawmaker says arrogance has landed them there.

The University of Minnesota cast the lone dissenting vote this afternoon against a Central Corridor route through campus along Washington Avenue at a meeting of a key advisory panel.

The 11-1 vote is likely to be affirmed by the Met Council later today.

University Vice President Kathleen O'Brien insisted today — as she has all along — the institution is "pro-transit," pro-Central Corridor and a dedicated partner in the effort.

But after the vote, state Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, ripped the U as none of the above.

"All the issues" raised by the university have been dealt with, said Hausman, who, as chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, authored the bill authorizing the U to borrow $233 million for a series of bioscience labs — some of which will be repaid by taxpayers. "The university has suddenly raised itself to the top while all the others fall by the wayside.

"To say they've been collaborative defies history. ... These last few years, I have not seen them as a team player, and suddenly, now that this is happening, they say it has to be exactly like they want."

Hausman described the U's continued opposition as the "ultimate in carelessness and possibly arrogance." She went on to say the U might face ramifications at the Capitol when seeking funding from lawmakers in the future. "The sense of many is the U is simply accustomed to getting their own way," she said.

She related a conversation with University President Robert Bruininks in which he expressed concerns about the "aesthetics" of the light rail line through campus.

"It's an insult to Minneapolis and St. Paul to assume only the university cares about aesthetics," Hausman said.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Friends, Regents, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Ear

From the Pioneer Press:

We urge the Board of Regents to meet Tuesday with Peter Bell, head of the Metropolitan Council and the man responsible for keeping the line on track, to hear his compelling case for Washington Avenue. To this point, everybody else involved has listened carefully to the university's concerns. It's important that the U return the favor.

We appreciate due diligence. But we note that the U's own study, and the conclusions of most engineers, show that the Dinkytown Loop subtracts riders, threatens subsidized housing, requires new negotiations with railroads and brings hazardous waste sites into play.

The entire 11-mile line is threatened if university leaders put its heart off-limits.

Bell and the Met Council need to put the project into the final federal funding competition this fall. The U's delays could give the feds an excuse to say, "Sorry, Twin Cities — we'll send the money to Portland."

Bell is seeking an immediate meeting with the Regents. As a former Regent himself, and someone with a proven commitment to the institution, he sees the big picture. Professional courtesy alone — to say nothing of a need to understand how strong the case for Washington Avenue is — suggests the Regents should accept his offer.

The Central Corridor Management Committee is to meet Wednesday to make a recommendation on the Washington Avenue alignment. The full Met Council is scheduled to meet later that day to act on the recommendation. But the train, scheduled to start up in 2014, needs the U's support — now.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

University of Minnesota Football Fans: Exorbitantly Stupid

The leading edge of America’s economic collapse can be found in the state of Minnesota, where fans of the losing Gophers gas up the SUV and drive across town to the TCF Bank stadium to spend thousands of dollars for a seat overlooking a fiasco.

The citizens of Minnesota — already gouged by the state for the taxes that helped pay for the stadium — make the people who give charity donations to Harvard University, even though it’s got forty billion dollars, look smart.

Read the comments after the article. There are pages and pages of them, and they’re instructive.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Affordability At The University of Minnesota
Priorities for the Short and Long Term

(Today I had three minutes to make remarks at the Board of Regents Open Forum on the budget. )

Mark Yudof was the 14th President of the University of Minnesota. He has recently been chosen to head the best public higher education system in the country. This is what he said in his U of M inaugural address:

"Minnesotans expect us to be fair in providing access to the University for their sons and daughters.

If we do not provide reasonable access--including access for those who are underprepared and historically underrepresented in higher education and in the upper levels of our socioeconomic life, the taxpayers and state government of Minnesota will turn their backs on our graduate, research, and outreach functions.

Simply stated, it is imperative that we continue to embrace our land-grant roots if we are to thrive."

My first point is that currently student debt is crushing and that the highest priority should be put on addressing this problem.

The claim that scholarships can offset fees and tuition is an empty one. The focus needs to shift to student debt.

According to Kiplinger, we have the highest average student loan debt of any (public) school in the BigTen - $25,000.

And this is just an average. Undergraduates working in my lab have debts greater than this - people who were born in Vietnam, Poland, and the Ukraine. To give but one real example: both parents of one of my Vietnamese students work in an Austin meat-packing plant. She should be going to medical school, but informed me recently that she would have to seek employment immediately after graduation in order to pay off her debts.

Our BigTen-leading student debt is simply unacceptable and taking steps to correct it should be of highest priority.

My second point is the hubris exhibited by our administration's continual parroting of the phrase: "ambitious aspiration to be one of the top three public research universities in the world."

As the faculty senate research committee put it last September:

"Is this a time to be talking about getting into the top three? When units cannot maintain their research capacity, how can they get to the top three? There is little to suggest that the University is on an upward trajectory."

In response to perceived criticism, President Bruininks has said:

"I've heard some of the 'doubters' say things like, I'd settle for best in the Big Ten. Students don't choose the University of Minnesota for (a) mediocre future."

We'd be extremely fortunate to be one of the best schools in the BigTen. Continuing on with this Orwellian third best public research university in the world business, in light of reality, is an embarrassment and only serves to make us look naive and foolish.

To conclude, again with the words of Mark Yudof:

“Some would urge the University to pull back on its land-grant responsibilities.

But at what cost? To save so little and destroy so much? Any short-term gain to research or graduate and professional programs occasioned by cutbacks to the core will be self-defeating. The result will be a decreased level of public support for the entire University enterprise. The University is built on its undergraduate program. If the foundation cracks, the whole edifice is in jeopardy."
(President Bruininks and Provost Sullivan were present while these remarks were made.)

U Given One More Week On Light Rail
All Aboard?

From the Pioneer Press

At the indirect urging of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Central Corridor decision makers this afternoon offered the University of Minnesota one more week to get on board.

The U has been holding out for a different route through campus than any of the local governments involved want, and a vote had been scheduled for today.

Last night, University President Robert Bruininks called Gov. Tim Pawlenty and was "very concerned" about the vote, said Met Council Chair Peter Bell. Pawlenty Chief of Staff Matt Kramer called Bell, a Pawlenty appointee, and requested the week delay.

Bell, a former University regent, urged other leaders on the advisory panel — including St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and commissioners from Hennepin and Ramsey counties — to grant the request "out of deference to the university."

They all agreed.

The delay came as members of the panel were on the brink of forcing a vote to run trains on Washington Avenue. Today, the university made what was expected to be its final case for its preferred route, a detour along the northern edge of campus through Dinkytown.

The U's presentation persuaded no one, especially since its own study concluded the Dinkytown route would fail a key federal benchmark.

After the meeting, University Vice President Kathleen O'Brien said the University appreciates being given the extra time so Bruininks, senior officials and regents can digest the findings of the fresh study. Right now the University needs to take a step back and say, 'What are the benefits and risks involved?'" she said.

Ah, and the University has not been thinking about this until now?

VP O'Brien has been intimately involved with this process - she's a voting member of the panel - and she didn't see this coming?


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Surprise, Surprise…

U’s Rail Route Would Fail

Federal Scoring,

Their Own Study Says

From the Pioneer Planet:

The University of Minnesota's preferred route for the Central Corridor would fail to pass — big time — a key scoring index needed for federal approval, according to records obtained by the Pioneer Press today.

The conclusion is contained in an inch-or-so-thick U-sponsored report that took months to complete — a linchpin of its effort to re-route the train off Washington Avenue as it courses through campus linking St. Paul and Minneapolis. A copy of the draft report, "Central Corridor Light Rail Transit: Northern Alignment Alternative Feasibility Study" by SRF Consulting Group, was examined by the Pioneer Press this afternoon.

The report's conclusion that the University's preferred detour around the northern edge of campus would not pass federal muster is being underscored over and over today, as all local officials involved in the project — except the U — try to persuade the institution to acquiesce before a key vote Wednesday.

"As of now, every effort is being made to ensure that we come forward tomorrow with an agreement, including the university," Ramsey County Commissioner and Regional Rail Authority Chair Jim McDonough said today.

But the U appears to be holding out, arguing that it, its high-powered Washington lobbying firm, and officials like U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar could persuade federal officials to change the ingredients of their formula, according to several officials and the U's report.

The apparent impasse comes within days of all local funding being secured for the construction, following an agreement over the weekend between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders to borrow $70 million. The University is not paying any money for the construction; the construction budget is entirely taxpayer-funded

According to the University's report:

The U's preferred route — running along the northern edge of campus through Dinkytown — would cost less but attract several thousand fewer riders than the route along Washington Avenue preferred by local officials from Ramsey and Hennepin counties, St. Paul, Minneapolis and the Pawlenty-appointed Met Council.

Because of the fewer riders, the U's route would fail a complex federal formula known as the Cost Effectiveness Index. The current CEI sought by the Federal Transit Administration is 23.99 or below.

The Washington Avenue route, which would cost $909 million, is 23.80. The U's Dinkytown route, which would cost between $889 million and $894 million, would have a CEI of between 28.25 and 28.44, according to the U's study, which notes that 23.99 is recommended by the FTA to be considered for federal funding.

The FTA is needed to pay half the construction cost.

For several hours today, the Pioneer Press has been unable to reach University officials for a comment.

The jig is up Bob. Time to do the right thing? Openness, transparency, doing what is best for the citizens of the state - how about it? Ready to (finally) walk the talk?
This Week at Lake Wobegon U

For some time Mr. B. has been amazed at the way things have gone at Lake Wobegon University. This recently stimulated an addition to the header of this blog:

"Raise that tuition, dig that gravel, buy that Coke, sell that soul..."

Perhaps this is the unofficial work song of the inmates at Morrill Hall?

The selling of souls is an old story - see Faust - and the Daily in their recent Spring humor edition used it well in fun-poking stories about OurLeader's ambitious aspirations. (Things are always funniest when there is a certain amount of truthiness to them.)

Selections (the names have been changed to protect the guilty) from the Daily Planet:

OurLeader Sells Soul, U Now in the Top Three

OurLeader sold his soul to Satan Friday, in a stunning move that further proves his drive to carry his school upward and onward into the top three of public research facilities in the WORLD [sic].

In admitting he "got in over his head with this one," OurLeader said after so much publicity for the Strategic Position campaign, it was time for something drastic.

"After all I've said, if I don't get this University into the top three, how will that look for me? he asked, perhaps for the first time, giving insight into his real reasoning for the campaign.

With the Devil by his side at a press conference held at Taco Bell, OurLeader answered a number of questions, such as: What the hell were you thinking?

For his part Satan called the deal a "win-win" and said that nothing bad ever happens when people sell their souls to him. Many at LWU are already clients, so why not the President?

"About the only one I've not been able to help is some nut named Bonzo who seems to think that affordable education should be a priority. Dream along with me. That guy is nutso."

Just hours after OurLeader had sold his soul to Satan, the Prince of Darkness distracted him with an all expense paid trip to the MOA.

"I sent him to the Mall with my credit card. That should keep him busy. Designer glasses, suits, we'll never see him again."

With the president out of the picture, Satan appointed himself president for life and made Lake Wobegon U the top public research U in the universe. It didn't take long for LWU officials to pledge their support to the devil.

"This is just fantastic [sic]" said OurProvost.

"I'm glad I didn't go to Iowa!" exclaimed Karlene Arney.

"Maybe I should reconsider rebadgerization?" wondered Kim Mahady.

"We will try to piece this together in regard to whether something serious has indeed happened here in regard to the so-called coup at the U by a double-dipping EvilDoer" commented Shark Rottenbread, LWU general counsel.

Rude Pfutz, HeadBeanCounter, was pleased: "Great, now we can sue. With the Devil on our side, how can we lose?"

And from Coach Brewski: "I want to sell my soul, too. For God's sake they're building me this stadium. I need to win some games."

Satan reportedly responded that there were some things that even he couldn't do.

University to Rely on Horse-Drawn Transit System

In a stunning turn of events, OurLeader unveiled a set of plans to implement horse-drawn transit along the Southern route.

It would operate on a new Green Way along Washington Avenue. This would help to make Lake Wobegon U a truly green campus with no need for chemical fertilizers.

It would be safe for students and gentle enough for hospital patients.

Furthermore, OurLeader proudly reported, he has worked out an agreement on this with Peter Bell and the Metropolitan Council. This was only made possible by the close personal relationship that OurLeader has developed with the Met Council and the mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Reactions to the plan were generally favorable.

"Just like the Budweiser commercials!" said an enthusiastic University MouthPiece, Don Walter.

"This is just fantastic [sic] " echoed OurProvost. "If this doesn't make us one of Earth's top three public research universities, then I'll have to take a job on Mars."

So Sue Me, Pfutz...

And in response to Pfutzenreuter:

"Tell him to sue me," Rukavina said.

"It's in the bill, tell him to sue me."

From an email I received yesterday:

The language of the bill stipulates that the Board of Regents must not raise fees or tuition “beyond the amount currently planned for the 2008-2009 academic year.”

Faculty Legislative Liasons, May 19, 2008

From MPR

Higher Ed cuts should spare students higher tuitions
by Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio
May 20, 2008

St. Paul, Minn. — The budget reductions are a dose of financial pain for the U of M and MnSCU. But the final numbers in the weekend agreement between legislators and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are less than half of what Pawlenty originally proposed to cut to help fix the nearly $1 billion budget hole.

Starting in July the U of M will have to work with $6 million less than the state budget mapped out last year. The Legislature allowed several options for this year's cut to help soften the blow, according to U of M Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter. "We'll address that budget cut by reducing one-time spending items that are available to us as well as using some of our--which is like the state, a relatively small reserve--but we'll dip into some of that to cushion that first cut."

Just a little more than a week ago, university officials discussed the possibility of hiking tuition 9.5 percent this year, two percent above what they originally planned. That plan was a worst-case scenario if budget cuts approached the governor's proposal of $27 million, Pfutzenreuter says.

"That 9.5 percent is absolutely off the table. This reduction is substantially smaller than that and we're just not contemplating that kind of an increase anymore."

The financial outlook has the U of M cutting costs and seeking new revenue. A U of M regents panel approved incentives for early faculty and staff retirement. If an expected six percent of employees participate, it could mean as much as $50 million in savings. The administration is also considering a new student fee to fund certain construction projects. It would start as a $25 per year cost for first year students this fall. In five years it would increase to $100 a year for all students.

Even as it deals with the budget reduction, the U of M emerges from the session with some $140 million in construction and repair money, and another $217 million to build four new high-tech science buildings.

MnSCU should be able to absorb much of the cut without affecting individual campuses, says Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affiars Linda Kohl.

"We also will be able to keep our tuition increases at the lowest level in a decade: two percent increase for students attending community and technical colleges and three percent for students attending state universities."

Sunday, May 11, 2008

LRT battles
The U's Memo of Misunderstanding

From the Strib:

The University of Minnesota's preference for a northern alignment through campus and a memo that the U sent to the Federal Transit Administration in March are jeopardizing the project's application for federal funding, according to Council Chairman Peter Bell and others involved in planning the line.

"My request of the U is that they just be very clear on what it is they want," Bell said Thursday. "If they want the northern alignment and are willing to delay or perhaps lose the project, they should be honest about that."

In the memo, the U raised concerns about the line's Washington Avenue routing and argued that the law requires consideration of the northern alignment. The university is funding a study of that alignment, but Bell says changing the route would delay the project by at least a year and increase the cost, and he called on the U to retract the memo.

"I think we behaved in the team spirit," Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega said Thursday, referring to concessions that east metro officials made over the winter. "The University of Minnesota just destroyed it."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's About Time!

The Unvarnished Gall of the BigU Administration

Student Gouging Is Too Much for Board of Regents

From MPR
St. Paul, Minn. — A University of Minnesota Board of Regents panel shot down a proposal to impose a new $100 student fee to pay for campus construction projects.

The regents' Finance and Operations Committee sent the proposal back to the university administration saying officials should reconsider whether it's the right time to impose a new student fee.

Regent John Frobenius said making students pony up construction money after the University secured hundreds of millions of dollars in state money for building projects sends the wrong message.

"To follow up the year the legislature gave us the largest bonding bill we've probably ever seen in the history of the university, we tack on a capital fee for our students, doesn't make any political sense at all," Frobenius said.

The student fee proposal surfaced during a discussion of the coming university budget, which includes either a 7.5 percent or 9.5 percent tuition increase depending on the outcome of budget talks at the legislature.

Students already pay a $1,000 student fee, plus a $50 a year fee to cover construction of the Gopher stadium.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

U of MN vice president

among finalists for top job at


See post for link and information.

From the Daily:


University Vice President for Research Timothy Mulcahy is one of four finalists for the position of chancellor at the University of Wisconsin - Madison.

University President Bob Bruininks said he appreciates Mulcahy's contribution to the University and hopes he stays, but understands that the position would be a good career move.

"We'll certainly celebrate if he gets this position, but (we'll) celebrate even harder if he doesn't," Bruininks said.

So Sue Me, Pfutz

From the Daily

May 7, 2008

Rep. Rukavina seeks to slow tuition increases

Tuition costs could increase by 10 percent next year, but Rukavina thinks this can be prevented.

By Jake Grovum
With rumors circulating of tuition hikes nearing 10 percent, one state representative is seeking to end the increases before they start.
Legally, the Legislature can't mandate fiscal policies, such as tuition increases, to the University, but that isn't stopping Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, from trying.
And now, the DFLer is calling for a tuition freeze.
A Higher Education Policy bill provision says the Board of Regents must not increase tuition or fees beyond the previously planned amount - 7.5 percent.
Rukavina, who is chairman of the House committee where the provision began, said he doesn't remember the University forecasting the 7.5 percent increase. Furthermore, he said even that is too high.
It's likely the University will endure a $10 million cut in state appropriations, but Rukavina maintains officials can slow tuition hikes.
"I think the main mission of the University is to educate our public," Rukavina said. "You can't do that if you're pricing yourself out of business, that's what they're doing."
However, increases could go higher. If the University faces Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed $27.3 million cut, officials say tuition could increase by 9.5 percent.
For its part, the University will do what it has to in order to withstand the cuts, University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said, which could mean budget cuts and slowing down investments, with further tuition increases as a last resort.
Holding off on investments could be exactly what Rukavina is looking for, as he said with the coming budget cuts, it's time for the University to "slow down," not raise tuition.
"(Academic Health Center Senior Vice President) Dr. (Frank) Cerra's got these ambitious goals with his bioscience buildings and you kids have to pay for the g- -d- -n football stadium," Rukavina said. "It's time to just slow down a little bit; their main mission is to educate."
Earlier this legislative session, the University received funding for a $292 million biomedical research program, of which the state is set to pay 75 percent. On top of the program, the University also received more than $100 million in funding for other projects.
After a relatively favorable session for the University, more tuition increases could have other, unintended consequences for the school at the Capitol, Rukavina added.
"They're going to lose a lot of friends at the Capitol if they jack up that tuition," he said. "They're pricing themselves out of work if they keep going up 7.5 percent."
Despite Rukavina's intent to keep tuition low, Pfutzenreuter stands by the fact that the Legislature can't decide how the University spends its money.
As for the governor, Pawlenty spokesman Alex Carey said the bill's stipulation is "meaningless" because of the University's autonomy, and said Pawlenty remains in favor of the $27.3 million cut.
Still, the tuition provision remains in the bill, likely to be finalized Tuesday, Rukavina said.
And in response to Pfutzenreuter:
"Tell him to sue me," Rukavina said. "It's in the bill, tell him to sue me."
Oh, and by the way, Pfutz-

Although the Legislature can't MAKE the university keep tuition reasonable, they can always cut the university's budget - or not fund (unnecessary) new buildings, if the university keeps up this game of tuition blackmail. You might want to keep that in mind. When it comes time to fill those nice, new, shiny biomedical research buildings you may need to make another trek over to the state capitol.

These are the people's representatives and this is a state university. If in doubt, go over to Northrup and read the inscription on the building. Apparently you have not done so lately.

Friday, May 2, 2008

MoneyLaw: The Student Loan Bubble

Some people at the U (Bob, Tom?) don't seem to realize that the student loan debt of our graduates is a disgrace.

We hear things like:

There have been a lot of false statements made about tuition increases. He [Sullivan] said the discussion should focus on the marginal average cost to students of a tuition increase, factoring in tuition discounting, scholarships, fellowships, and other financial aid support.”

Faculty Consultative Committee
Thursday, January 24, 200

What exactly are these false statements, Tom?

Maybe your experience as a law school dean has made you a little too cavalier about numbers that seem small to you - like $25,000. And this is just the average, some students owe considerably more. Most of our student do not have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. "Marginal average cost" might sound suave and impressive while sipping sherry at a law school reception, but most students seem to look at it from the eminently sensible viewpoint of how much they owe when they finally graduate.

This is what the discussion should focus on and how this influences what students do next, especially if they are the first in their family to go to college or university, and they and their parents are extremely concerned about this debt load. (I have a little experience with students in my lab in this kind of situation.)

According to Kiplinger (2008) here are the numbers:

Average Debt at Graduation

Big Ten Public Universities

Illinois $15,413

Ohio State $18,130

Indiana $19,756

Iowa $20,234

Purdue $20,102

Wisconsin $20,282

Michigan State $22,147

Penn State $23,500

Michigan $23,353

Minnesota $24,995

Why don't we make it a priority, in our next budget, to systematically work toward lowering (or at least stabilizing) tuition at the University of Minnesota?

Even if this means cutting back on the administration's plans for becoming one of the third greatest public research universities in the universe...

In terms of a first course in economics: It's a guns and butter situation, not one of marginal cost.

(Provost's grade for economic analysis of tuition increases: D+/C-)

MoneyLaw: Madame X et des succes de scandale

Mrs. Bonzo is an art historian. She told me about this business some time ago. The scandal is Sargent and a risque (at the time) painting that needed doctoring to be presentable...

(A related post about Madame X)

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Further Wrangling, Or...

My Consultant is Right, Yours is Wrong

From the StarTribune:

The Central Corridor got a boost at the State Capitol on Wednesday, but a mile away, planners of the light-rail line were using phrases like "lethal moment" and "into the abyss" to describe their continued wrangling.

An 11-mile route that includes banning cars from Washington Avenue in southeast Minneapolis was approved in late February, but the University of Minnesota wants trains to go through Dinkytown instead and is paying to study the option.

Peter Bell, chairman of the Central Corridor planning committee and the Metropolitan Council, said he understands the U's "very legitimate" concerns about congestion and who would pay to relieve it. But he tried to hammer home that choosing the so-called northern alignment would delay the start of the $932 million project by a year and raise its cost by at least $40 million.

Mark Fuhrmann, project director, noted that the Twin Cities was one of 10 metro areas around the country vying for $1.6 billion in federal funds. The deadline for applying for this round of grants is September; federal money is expected to pay for half the line.

"I'm not voting for anything that delays this project," said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

A consultant for the U talked about how the northern alignment might work and how it would cost about $15 million less than the current plan. Then Fuhrmann listed the northern alignment's unresolved issues, such as railroad right-of-way negotiations and removing four units of low-income housing in the line's path.

Rybak wondered whether either party was giving him the full story. The engineers, he said, are "working for two different groups who, I believe, are not in neutral. ... We really need to get real with each other before this next meeting."

Kathleen O'Brien, vice president for university services, defended the consultant's work and the U's intentions. "From the get-go, I have asked for this study to not be sugar-coated, to be legitimate and objective," she said.

In late March, the U sent the Federal Transit Administration a 23-page memo outlining concerns about the Central Corridor process, but "we are not seeking a delay," O'Brien said.

The planning committee meets again May 21, when new ridership estimates should be available. "We either have to do a 'go' or a 'no go' decision on the northern alignment," Bell said.