Saturday, February 2, 2013

To get funding boost, 

University of Minnesota 

must prove its need, lawmaker says


From the Minnesota House of Representatives Session Daily:

 - Sarah Lemagie

After weathering years of state funding cuts, University of Minnesota leaders are asking the Legislature for a significant bump in aid this year. To get it, they’ll have to do a better job showing exactly where the money goes and how much previous cuts have hurt, one key lawmaker told them Monday.

“The University of Minnesota has apparently no problem, in the course of any legislative session, showing us how successful it’s been,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski Jr. (DFL-Winona), chair of the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. “…Where it appears to have great difficulty is showing us where it’s had to make tough choices.”

Pelowski’s terse remarks came midway through the committee’s first meeting of the year, days after Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled a two-year budget proposal that includes $80 million in new funding for the university. At Pelowski’s request, several university administrators appeared at Monday’s meeting to give the committee a basic overview of the university and its budgeting process. That presentation included a slide summarizing more than $228 million in cost-cutting that the university has done since 2006, from staff layoffs to reduced spending on equipment.

But Pelowski made it clear that he wants a more detailed accounting of how the university’s programs have been hurt, criticizing administrators for what he says is a habit of illustrating that harm “in such a big picture it’s hard to comprehend.”
“We’d be happy to provide much more detail, if that’s what you would like,” replied Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university’s chief financial officer.

House members also expressed concern about rising tuition and student debt, both at the university and nationwide. In return for its requested bump in state aid, the university has pledged to freeze undergraduate tuition for Minnesota residents for the next two years.

Pelowski has said that the committee will also be taking a close look this session at the university’s administrative spending – a hot topic since a recent Wall Street Journal article singled out the university for ballooning administrative costs. Legislators have requested a report on the topic that that university plans to complete by March 15.



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