Sunday, November 17, 2013

Former Interim University of Minnesota President 

Asks an Obvious Question

“What is the U doing to make real productivity 
gains in the cost of educating undergraduates?”

In line with the analysis presented by Mr. Michael McNabb earlier on the Periodic Table:

a former University of Minnesota administrator, an interim president no less, writes in the Star-Tribune this morning:

Should’ve asked Kaler about efficiency efforts
I wish one more question had been asked in the interview with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler (“U treads into unknown territory,” Nov. 10), namely, “What is the U doing to make real productivity gains in the cost of educating undergraduates?” While I applaud Kaler for freezing tuition, he is not reducing the real cost of educating each student but rather hoping to shift more of that cost back to the state. With real productivity gains, tuition could actually be reduced, not just frozen, assuming state funding for the U holds where it is at currently.

We expect most every other sector of our society and economy to use innovation to become more efficient. Many of them go out of business if they do not. As consumers of their product, we should expect no less of higher education.

RICHARD J. SAUER, Blue Springs, Mo.

The writer is a former interim president of the University of Minnesota.

The recent Sibson Consulting report on the U of M spans and layers came to a similar conclusion:

Finally, one limitation of our analysis is that it obtains to the work that is currently being done in the manner it is being done. Thus, although the layers and spans within the University are of sound number, they apply to the work as it is. The work performed and methods by which it is accomplished might both be improved.
See p. 5 of the Sibson report (emphasis added).

Also in line with the comments of Richard Sauer, Governor Jerry Brown of California, delivered a message to the University of California system recently that seems relevant.

Warning From California's 
November 15, 2013

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, warned the University of California Board of Regents Thursday, that the university system is going to need to look to internal savings to finance improvements, The Los Angeles Times reported. Brown spoke at a meeting at which the board approved a tuition freeze (consistent with the governor's thinking), but also a request to the state for $120 million beyond what he has proposed in his state budget plan. "The big, bad state is not going to bail you out at a rate that is different from what we are doing," Brown said. And he said that the university can't rely on its reputation for "quality and greatness" to get around budget realities.

"Remember that students, unfortunately, are the default financiers of higher education in America," he said. "We are going to have reshape the way things are done.... We are going to have to get into concrete trade-offs of how do you live within your means."

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