Sunday, October 18, 2009

Random Thoughts On The University of Minnesota Future Financial Resources Task Force

The following document was provided to me by a regular reader:

Page 16. “Assume that starting in FY 2012, annually tuition increases 3% for undergraduates on the coordinate campuses, 5% for undergraduate students on the Twin Cities campus, and 5% for all graduate and first professional students.”

This appears to be the minimum tuition increase under consideration to be implemented on an annual basis. Do the Regents also assume that the net incomes of students (and their parents) will increase 20% over the four years of college?

Page 17. “The quality, reputation, and distinctiveness of the academic programs and student experience on the Twin Cities campus have dramatically improved, but still lag behind the very best public and private universities.”

There is no evidence (such as ratings or student surveys) presented to support the assertion in the introductory clause of this statement. Yet even if the assertion is true, there is the stark conclusion that the U of M lags behind the best universities in this country. Since the senior administrators recognize this reality, why do they continue to issue public pronouncements about becoming one of the top three public research institutions in the world?

Page 17. “What should tuition pay for when tuition revenue exceeds the cost of instruction.”

A better question is: Why should tuition revenue exceed the cost of instruction?

Page 19. “Simplify systems, processes, policies, and administrative infrastructure to reduce costs, improve effectiveness, and create flexibility.”

Placing all power in the hands of a few senior administrators will simplify the operation of the University. We can ensure that the trains will run on time (although not on Washington Avenue) if we eliminate any faculty consultation.

Page 20. “Strategy #4: Narrow the scope of the University’s mission to advance a distinctive constellation of excellence.”

The Commitment to Focus returns. The ghost of Ken Keller appears to warn us of our sins.

Page 20. “As the scope of the mission narrows, identify how savings will be reallocated to higher priorities and costs will be eliminated (e.g. by taking buildings off line).”

The legislative strategy of the U of M for securing the necessary HEAPR bonds to maintain and renovate existing academic facilities has failed. The apparent solution is to simply close the buildings. Goodbye Eddy Hall? Folwell Hall? Bell Museum of Natural History?

Michael W. McNabb

University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974
University of Minnesota Alumni Association lifetime member


Veblen said...

You are always suggesting that Minnesota act more like Penn State in the graduation rate department. Now it seems that Minnesota may be emulating Penn State in the tuition department. ...not such a good thing.

If you want some idea of where your school may be headed take a look at Penn State's tuition task force report form the early aughts and my reaction to it.

Mr. B. said...

Veblen's links are eerily familiar. He has also pointed out to me that the Penn State graduation rates may be subject to manipulation.

Certainly anyone who is interested in what is going on here at the University of Minnesota should look at these links. I will try to write a crude synopsis of them in a future post.

What do you think of the fact that tOSU has apparently had no increase in tuition in the last three years? Is there any hope for us that the U of M and Penn State will ever be able to duplicate the good working relationship between the state government and the university in Ohio?

I am familiar with Ohio as my in-laws live there. They, too, are economically distressed and yet the citizens of the state seem supportive.

I thank you for not rubbing in the football score yesterday. Our administration would also like to emulate Penn State in the football area.

Veblen said...

I don't know much about the situation in Minnesota, but I doubt that Penn State will develop the sort of relationship with the Commonwealth that OSU currently has with the state of Ohio.

We have a very weird situation here in Pennsylvania. Our public higher education system has three tiers. At the bottom are the community colleges. In the middle are the comprehensive state-owned universities. And at the top, are the three research intensive state-related schools, Penn State, Pitt and Temple.

The bottom two-thirds of the system are pretty much what you would find in any state, but the state-related thing is unique to Pennsylvania, at least so far as I know. The state really has minimal control over the state-related schools other than the Governor getting to appoint a few trustees. The schools pretty much get to define their own missions and set their own policy. But the state constitution forbids these schools from receiving funds in the general appropriations budget which requires a simple majority vote. Each school's funding comes in a separate supplemental bill which under the constitution must receive a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Currently, the state passed the general funds budget last week, 101 days late. The supplemental budgets haven't been passed yet, because of the Democrats and the Republicans are still ironing out their differences on adding table games to our slot casinos. Without the revenue from those table games the budget wouldn't have been balanced with the supplemental appropriations included. And again the constitution requires a balanced budget.

Anyway, I think the whole higher ed system in the state must be reworked before there is any talk of sustained increased state appropriations for the state-related schools. And Penn State has historically fought any reorganization which it it saw as reigning in its independence.

BTW, I've been trying to develop some ideas on how to reorganize things here. I hope to post something on my blog about this when time allows.

Veblen said...

I almost forgot. Sorry about the loss yesterday. We did, however, try to make you Minnesotans feel at home by arranging to have snow on he ground for the easy feat this time of year in Central PA.