Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bad, But Not Surprising, News for the U of M

The feared chop from the Governor came. This isn't necessarily the end of the story, but it is time for OurLeader to roll up his sleeves and start giving serious consideration as to how to solve our problems. I hear rumors that Driven to Discover may be finally going down. How about an official end to the Strategic Propaganda Initiative and ambitious aspirations for becoming one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]?

Everyone who can should go to the conversation OurProvost is holding this Thursday afternoon. Information here.

[I have teaching obligations that day and will not be able to attend - a big disappointment as I had asked for such conversations in an op-ed in the Daily last semester. Glad that this is finally happening. See:

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax— And cabbages—and kings—“ ]

From the Daily:

In a move that would cut $151 million from the University of Minnesota’s state aid over the next two years, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed a cut Tuesday of more than 8 percent from state higher education for the upcoming 2010-11 biennium.

There has been speculation that the state could receive more than $3 billion in federal money, a sum that Pawlenty said would contain some money for higher education.

Pawlenty said he would continue to push for a cap on tuition increases at state schools at a rate close to inflation, but beyond that would let the University’s Board of Regents and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system Board of Trustees determine how to deal with their share of the cut.

University President Bob Bruininks said he was disappointed Pawlenty didn’t make higher education a priority in his budget.

“I don’t believe you can have a strong, vibrant economy if you don’t make higher education a priority,” he said.

While voicing his opposition to the proposed tuition increase cap, Bruininks said students would not face a large tuition increase.

“We have no intention of putting these reductions on the back of students,” he said.

In 2003, the state cut more than $198 million from the University’s budget. Tuition increased more than 14 percent each of the two subsequent school years.

Bruininks said to avoid similar increases, the University would first look to cut costs and delay investments before raising tuition.

Higher education currently makes up more than $3 billion in state expenditures. At 8.5 percent, it would be the fourth largest share of the state’s general fund in Pawlenty’s proposed budget.

Rep. Tom Rukavina , DFL-Virginia and chairman of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Finance and Policy Division, said the state would need to find additional revenue sources to close out the deficit.

“It’s shortsighted on his part,” he said of Pawlenty’s higher education cuts. “I’m not going to sit here and nod my head and agree that all of this could be solved with budget cuts.”

Sen. Sandy Pappas, chairwoman of the Senate’s higher education finance committee, called the deficit “unprecedented.”

While meeting with Bruininks on campus Tuesday, Pappas said the state needs to remain committed to supporting students.

“We don’t want to impact their quality [of education], and we don’t want to make them pay more,” she said.

Echoing Rukavina, Pappas said Pawlenty is not “putting everything on the table” when it comes to finding more revenue sources.

“The governor certainly hasn’t come up with any ideas about how we’re going to maintain the quality of our University while we cut,” Pappas said. “We have a governor who will not consider all options.”
Kudos to Pappas, Rukavina, and even, gasp, Bruininks for their positions. I am glad to finally see Bruininks commit to no large tuition increase. This is a late conversion, but late is always better than never.

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