Thursday, April 30, 2009

Show Me The Money

The Strib has posted on their web-site the second installment of the shameful saga - Generation debt.

Just a few excerpts...

A ground-breaking analysis by the nonpartisan Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability found the U's Twin Cities campus spends more per student -- $21,400 in 2006 -- than any other state's public research universities. While there are problems with that ranking -- the U's medical school is included while some other schools' are not -- the report invites questions from a public reeling from tuition increases.

One target for some Minnesota lawmakers is the U's ambition to be one of the best research universities in the world.

"In order to get there, you have to have pretty high-level professors, pretty high-level facilities," said Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, the ranking minority member of the higher education committee. "I've been concerned that those cost-drivers of getting to that goal have been more than our average students can absorb."

The U paid its full professors an average salary of $127,400 in 2008, according to an annual survey released this month by the American Association of University Professors, and an average total compensation of $167,200 (not including the medical school). That makes its professors the third-best compensated in the Big 10 and fourth-best among what it considers its "comparative group," which includes schools such as the University of California, Berkeley.

The driving force behind rising tuition is not too much spending on faculty, but too much elsewhere, recent reports say.

In newspaper editorial pages and at Capitol hearings, students, faculty and legislators have pushed for cuts to the University of Minnesota's central administration. The state House of Representatives' higher education omnibus bill includes a provision that would bar the U from using state funding to pay for new administrative positions or for administrators' salary increases.

In 2000, the U system employed 58 senior administrators (senior, assistant, associate and regular vice presidents, provosts, deans and chancellors). By 2008, that number had grown to 70 -- an increase of 20.7 percent. The number of deans is the same today as it was in 2000 -- 26. The biggest increase came in the category of senior and executive vice presidents and provosts -- from eight in 2000 to 13 this year.

Buildings are the most visible targets of cost-cutting advocates.

At the start of this semester, the University of Minnesota gave some students the chance, via video, to ask questions of Bruininks.

"I would just like to know," said one woman, "how the university is justifying all its increased spending, especially on things a lot of people would think are kind of extravagant -- the new history museum, the TCF Bank Stadium -- especially in an economic climate that I think most Americans would agree that spending beyond our means has caused."

The U is in the midst of a building boom. Over the next five to 10 years, it plans to build, renovate or add to the following: the TCF Bank Stadium, the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research, three new biomedical labs, the Weisman Art Museum, Northrop Auditorium, the Science Teaching and Student Services Center (which will replace the Science Classroom building), the Recreation Center, a new physics and nanotechnology facility and the Bell Museum of Natural History. The Legislature continues to debate whether to help fund the Bell Museum and will consider the physics and nanotechnology building within the next few years.

Together, the projects add up to more than $750 million, said Orlyn Miller, the U's director of project management, paid for through a mix of public dollars and private donations.

"We've been operating in what you might call a seller's market," said Patrick Callan, founding president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "There hasn't been a lot of incentive to find cost-effective approaches. In fact, the incentive has been to become more expensive."

President Bruininks, show me the money...

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