Saturday, October 31, 2009

CLA Dean Parente's Vision of Student Debt

Differs from that of the Morrill Hall Crowd at

University of Minnesota

One of my friends sent me a note about a solicitation from CLA for student financial support. This letter admits the pitiful circumstances in which many U of M graduates find themselves because of high tuition. This despite our President's empty claim that additional scholarship money is making up for the increases in tuition.

Obviously this is not the case. Otherwise, why would we raise tuition?

From a recent CLA fund-raising letter:

"Twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars. That's how much many of today's students owe when they graduate from college. But their debt isn't due to lack of foresight or saving. The cost of higher education has so far outpaced inflation that increasing numbers of students are borrowing more than ever to pay for college. As a result, many students can't afford to pursue their dreams and aspirations that a college degree makes possible.”

"Scholarships enable students with ability and desire to realize their potential and avoid graduating with a level of debt that could take a decade to repay. Scholarships also free students from having to work so many hours that there's little time to make the most of the exceptional experience the College of Liberal Arts has to offer. But scholarships don't simply bestow money. They instill something else every student needs to succeed: confidence.

"Please take a moment to make a contribution. Your gift will help ensure that students are able to focus on what matters most right now--getting an education that cultivates their potential and paves the way to better tomorrows.

"Thank you for your generous support.


  • James A. Parente Jr.

Dean, College of Liberal Arts

On numerous occasions I have asked President Bruininks to explain why our undergraduates have the highest debt load of any public school in the BigTen. This question has never been answered or even addressed. President Bruininks?

Maybe you should explain to Dean Parente your claim that access has not been hindered by high tuition and the problem has already been taken care of by scholarships?

Whose ambitious aspirations are more important, President Bruininks, yours or those of our undergraduates?

See earlier posts on this matter:

The Student Loan Bubble

Time for MoneyBall at the University of Minnesota

Affordability at the University of Minnesota: Priorities for the Short and Long Term

Daily Calls Out U Admin on High Tuition Model

Friday, October 30, 2009

Latest on Light Rail and

the University of Minnesota

From MPR:

The University of Minnesota and planners of the Central Corridor light-rail line are under the gun to work out their differences.

A month ago, the university sued the Metropolitan Council over the nearly billion-dollar transit service that would link St. Paul to Minneapolis. The U of M says the trains would disrupt its sensitive research facilities, some located as near as 30 feet from the proposed tracks.

Ramsey County Commissioner Jim McDonough said when he met with FTA officials in Washington D.C. earlier this month, they made it clear that they're taking the U of M's lawsuit seriously.

"The message we're getting from the FTA -- both the university and us -- is 'get this resolved here, because we don't want this to play out in the courts,'" McDonough said.

McDonough, who chairs the county's rail authority, said the U and project planners are scrambling to close a tentative deal next month.

Met Council chairman Peter Bell said the U has legitimate concerns, and the negotiations are making progress. But Bell said if they can't strike a deal soon, it could jeopardize the project's chances of receiving permission to enter what's known as final design. He said that could ultimately delay the project by a year, adding tens of millions of dollars to the final cost.

"I think Mayor [Chris] Coleman and all of our project partners -- Hennepin County, Ramsey County, Minneapolis -- are all somewhat frustrated that the U hasn't moved quicker and been more concerned about addressing their needs in a cost-effective way," Bell said.

Bell also noted that the project is dealing with a finite pot of cash.

"Every dime we spend at the U is a dime we cannot spend along University Avenue, dealing with the parking issues, business mitigation issues, and the like," he said.

But university vice president Kathleen O'Brien said the U and its partners are working at lightning speed to untangle the technical issues that other campuses have taken years to resolve.

O'Brien didn't have a direct response when asked whether the U's concerns could harm the light-rail project.

"Do I think it could jeopardize the project? I think the Central Corridor will be built," she said. "In my role as vice president of the University of Minnesota, it's to protect ... the public's research university. This is an important project. These laboratories are critical as well."

With so much at stake, O'Brien said the negotiations can't be rushed.

The FTA wouldn't comment on whether the lawsuit could delay the project, but the agency has signed off on the project's lengthy environmental review. In its lawsuit, the university argued the review did not adequately address the transit service's adverse impacts on the institution.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Brutally Honest Discussion at a University of Minnesota Faculty Senate Committee Meeting on Finance: Fast Shuffle Coming Up At the Fairview/University Interface?

For further information, please see post on Periodic Table, Too:

"Why is the current system not serving the academic mission? This is like trusting the people whose last rocket didn't reach the moon when they say this next one will -- why trust the rocket scientists who failed? Will this arrangement just be in place for the next dozen years and then will there be something new?"

What chunk is falling away from the University, Professor Konstan asked? As he reads the proposal, he said, AHC faculty who are not completely clinical will be University faculty, but a larger percentage of their time will go to the new health system than they would spend on UMP. He said he agreed with Professor Morrison that this proposal would carve off the viable part of the AHC and leave the rest hanging around the University's neck. He said he worries that the University will go down this path without articulating well what will happen--because that would generate opposition.

The role of this Committee is to ask where things are going so "we can shed light on it."

Ms Stahre said that this proposal has an ominous tone and may have much broader implications than just the clinical enterprise.

Ah, but this is the usual modus operandi of the Morrill Hall crowd:

1. Decide what you want to do. Make an org chart.

2. Hire a consulting firm to spin things your way.

3. Get everything ready, secretly, so that you can do it.

4. Spring it on everyone else at the last minute. They will react, scream and yell, or just give up in stunned silence. You can then set up a stacked committee of at least 75% administrators, if someone makes a fuss. Consultation problem solved!

5. See org chart in 1. Implement.

For examples of such strategy in action, see: University of Minnesota Graduate School, General College, AHC Reorganization...

[Would that the Morrill Hall crowd could act as fast on issues like conflict of interest and double dipping?]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Old Wine in New Bottles

The Return of Commitment to Focus

From the Daily:

Decreasing state aid and increasing tuition is forcing the University of Minnesota to function more independently of the state financially and narrow academic focuses to invest in its most promising areas.
Ah, commitment to focus. I hope that our former president Ken Keller is available for consulting.

“It’s clearly a direction policymakers have been pointing us to for decades,” Richard Pfutzenreuter, chief financial officer, said of the rising cost of education. “It seems like an unstoppable trend.”
Ah that would be no Fitz, how about Ohio State?

This year, tuition makes up 26 percent of the University’s budget while state appropriations contribute 21 percent. This is the first year tuition has surpassed state funding, according to the task force’s report.
And what, exactly, is the cost to educate one undergraduate for one year at the University of Minnesota? Please provide figures and explanation. And is this covered by tuition plus the state's contribution? And, if it is, why should students subsidize the ambitious aspirations of the Morrill Hall crowd?

Michael McPherson, president of the Spencer Foundation — an organization dedicated to researching all levels of education — said it is a definite trend that states are allocating less to state colleges and universities, forcing those institutions to increase the cost to students.

McPherson said public institutions don’t have much choice; they “either lower the quality or raise the price.”

Either or? Some places (U of M?) are both lowering the quality AND raising the price.

According to the task force report, the University will work on identifying specific areas of “excellence” and funneling funds there. Besides cutting costs, this would be in an effort to bolster the University’s reputation in the higher education marketplace.

Specific areas of excellence have not been identified.

Aye and there's the rub. Who, exactly, is going to be making this decision?

Clyde Allen, chairman of the University’s Board of Regents said the University’s goal to become a top three research University shows more progress in some areas than others.

Care to be a little bit more explicit? Which of our competitors have we surpassed in the last five years, even according to the U's own figures? Of course incremental improvement is possible given the sorry baseline. According to the latest Times Higher Education rankings, both Purdue and North Carolina have passed us in the beauty contest. We were 87th last year and this year we find ourselves at 105.

This is serious folks. Time to stop posturing. A better relationship needs to be built with the citizens of the state, the state government, and the governor. The Morrill Hall crowd is apparently out of ideas. They just keep muttering about ambitious aspirations and more money. And the only source of more money appears to be jacking up tuiton.

Pfitz and the president and a number of the Morrill Hall crew - the gang that couldn't shoot straight - will shortly be riding off into the sunset leaving the University in shambles. I think commencing a presidential search immediately would be in everyone's best interest. That way the new leader could be in place before we go over the cliff. An action made inevitable by the inaction of those currently running the show.

As State Representative Tom Rukavina put it:

"They're going to lose a lot of friends at the Capitol if they jack up that tuition," he [Tom Rukavina] said. "They're pricing themselves out of work if they keep going up 7.5 percent."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tis the Gift to Be Simple

I don't often have the opportunity to attend court proceedings. Many years ago, I watched my sister serve as a federal prosecutor for a major drug bust in New Orleans. It was a fascinating process to observe.

This morning I heard equally gripping advocacy by attorney Michael McNabb. He did an admirable job in answering questions and presenting reasons for overturning the sale of WCAL by St. Olaf to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR).

Mr. McNabb must have felt like biblical David. Across the courtroom from him sat counsel for the Attorney General's Office, MPR, and St. Olaf.

I was most impressed by the judges in the case. They asked the type of questions that indicated they had done their homework. They seemed to be trying to understand the issues in a way that would help them to make a fair decision. Kudos to them for pushing on what appeared to be the critical issues for making a decision.

I won't give my recap of what happened since I am heavily biased in favor of the Save WCAL group. But I was very proud that our judicial system allows Mr. McNabb, who modestly describes himself as a country lawyer, to square off with what is collectively a very formidable group both politically and financially. He more than held his own.

Mr. McNabb concluded his remarks by quoting the old Shaker hymn:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be...



If the reader is not familiar with this situation, I give a short summary from the Save WCAL website:

For 82 years radio station WCAL comforted, informed, inspired and entertained listeners from the college, community and church.

Listener support provided the basis for a broadcast service through years of peace, war, depression, prosperity and hope. That support created the entire value of WCAL. It built and equipped towers and studios, rewarded staff and enhanced St. Olaf College.

St. Olaf was the steward for tens of thousands of donors, many now deceased, who sacrificed and invested their earned dollars believing that their station's trustee would never fail its duty to continue WCAL's missions.

A charitable trust is created when a gift is accepted with the commitment to continuously support a charitable purpose as intended by the donor. A trustee must prudently manage the gift. The intentions, the value and the duty are inseparable.

Should circumstances so change that carrying out the purposes is no longer possible, the trustee remains obligated to as nearly as possible fulfill those purposes. A trustee that sells assets to use for unrelated purposes has breached the fiduciary duty required by Minnesota law, and may not benefit from the wrongdoing.

St. Olaf College failed its duty of trust and stewardship by liquidating WCAL trust assets with the intention to use them for unrelated purposes.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tom Rukavina for Governor

I support Representative Tom Rukavina for Governor because of the good things that he has done in trying to keep tuition down at the University of Minnesota.

With someone like him in the governor's chair it would be possible to develop a much better working relationship with state government assuming we have a new occupant of the president's chair in Morrill Hall.

Tom is a UMD graduate and an Iron Ranger. His commitment to education and jobs in Minnesota is of long standing. Unlike some other politicians, in both parties, it is not difficult to guess where Tom will come down on the issues. You may not agree with him on every single thing, but he certainly does not take positions based on what is going to make him the most popular candidate or raise the most money.

It is long past time for us to join hands in cooperation with the government of the state and our fellow citizens to duplicate the relationship between Ohio State University and the State of Ohio which has enabled operations at tOSU without tuition increases for the last three years, without staff layoffs, and with a modest salary increase of 2.5% this year.

Time for a change in St. Paul

and Morrill Hall?

A past exchange between Tom and a U of M admin rep is telling:

"They're going to lose a lot of friends at the Capitol if they jack up that tuition," he [Tom Rukavina] said. "They're pricing themselves out of work if they keep going up 7.5 percent."

Despite Rukavina's intent to keep tuition low, Pfutzenreuter stands by the fact that the Legislature can't decide how the University spends its money.

And in response to Pfutzenreuter:

"Tell him to sue me," Rukavina said. "It's in the bill, tell him to sue me."

Although technically the State Legislature cannot tell the University of Minnesota what to do, they do have the power of the purse. Representative Rukavina inserted language into a funding bill that effectively prevented the U from raising tuition any further. Disrespect and arrogance in matters like this by our administration is harmful.

The way that the Morrill Hall crowd handled the alcohol problem and their lack of cooperation in solving light rail problems are additional examples of behavior that needs modification.

A strong and affordable U of M is in the best interest of all citizens of the state as well as politicians of all persuasions. Arne Carlson was a tremendous supporter of the U. This is not just a DFL, or IR, or Independent Party problem. We need to elect politicians who will pledge to work together to solve the problems of the state. Education and jobs should be at the top of the priority list.

Thank you Tom, for your past, present, and future service.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Environmental Concerns

at Former Gopher Ordnance Works

The situation concerning environmental contamination at the University of Minnesota's proposed UMore Park site is a matter for concern that should be addressed immediately before proceeding to spend additional money on the project.

Certainly the situation described in:

Preliminary Environmental Investigation (2003)
Former Gopher Ordnance Works
UMore Park/Rosemount Minnesota

is a matter for concern.

The federal government conveyed 4700 acres to the University in 1947 and 3200 acres in 1948, which together became the UMore Park site.

In 1999 the Army Corps of Engineers determined that both parcels were eligible for federal funds for restoration.

In 2005 the Corps revised its position and declared that only the 1947 parcel is eligible for federal funds for restoration.

This is significant because most of the ammunition manufacturing and industrial activities were located on the 1948 parcel.

In the preliminary environmental investigation document cited above, numerous examples of contamination by mercury, arsenic, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are listed.

Certainly location of a new community of 20-30,000 in this general area would seem unwise unless a thorough job of remediation were to be done.

What is the estimated cost for remediation and who is going to pay for it?

Dr. Bruininks?

Exactly how long is the UMore Park craziness going to continue?

“I don’t think anybody should put a dime into the University of Minnesota unless we use the money well, we invest it well and that we’re efficient in how we use resources.” Robert Bruininks (Daily - 9/26/08)

[And now much has been spent on this fiasco already?]

"Bruininks said he didn't know of a university in the United States that was doing something [MoreU Park aka Muscoplat's Folly] as 'courageous and innovative.'"

[How about unintelligent and sneaky?]

"Regent David Metzen said he thought the future of the project is the most important decision to face the University in the last 15 years." (Daily - 6/13/08)

[And if that is the case maybe we should have a little more openness and transparency about what, exactly, is going on? How much money has been spent already, on what, and where did it come from?]

In October 2008, only a year ago, a remarkable document appeared. This happened at a time when the financial collapse of the state as well as continual erosion of funding to the University was evident to anyone.

Compact, Complete and Connected Community

The locations of schools, recreation and civic facilities, places of worship, retail, transit stops, commercial, mixed-use, and dense development were carefully designed to be within walking distance of places of employment and residences (see plan, page 6).

Small neighborhood commercial centers are also located to provide a gathering place for those living within walking distance. The spacing of transit stops particularly shaped the locations of the dense centers.

The Concept Master Plan calls for a series of bus rapid transit (BRT) lines to connect the UMore Park property with other suburban destinations in the southeastern portion of the Twin Cities region. The plan calls for two transit stations for BRT along the northern edge of the UMore Park property, and its route would divert to the south of the Dakota County Technical College campus to accommodate student traffic from the campus as well as nearby high schools and civic facilities in the community.

A proposed light rail line, running from the eastern neighborhood center of the UMore Park property through the western neighborhood center and west toward Minnesota Highway 3, would eventually connect the community with the proposed Robert Street corridor light rail line and a comprehensive mass transit system serving the Twin Cities region. The consultant team recommends three transit stations along the line, to be developed over time.

Consultants are acknowledged in this amazing document:

Design Workshop, Inc.
Aspen, Colorado 81611

Land Planning and Design

Kurt Culbertson, Principal-in-Charge
Anna Gagne, Project Manager

Stephen Faber, Project Designer

Jennifer Pickett, Graphic Designer

Judy Navarro, Graphic Designer

Britt Palmberg, Editor

Sara Tie, Landscape Designer

Pablo Silveira, GIS Specialist

Brandon Hardison, Landscape Designer

Izzi Gailey, Executive Assistant

Adrian Rocha, Designer

Peter Adams, Economics

Annie Sutherland-Watts, Project Assistant

Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN 55401

Mark Koegler, President

Jeff McMenimen, Director of Design

Bryan Harjes, Landscape Architect

Rusty Fifield, Public Finance Specialist

Anna Claussen, Project Designer

Robert Charles Lesser & Co.

Real Estate Advisors

Adam Ducker, Managing Director

Jon Trementozzi, Senior Associate

Jonathan Bartlett, Vice President

Bethesda, MD 20814

Urban Design Associates (UDA)
Pittsburgh, PA

Community Design

Rob Robinson, Chairman

Joe Nickol, Project Manager

RLK Incorporated

Joe Samuel, Senior Professional Engineer

Minnetonka, MN 55343

Short, Elliot and Hendrickson (SEH)

Mark Benson, Transportation Planner

Dave McKenzie, Railroad Specialist

Haifeng Xiao, Transportation Modeling

St. Paul, MN 55110

Applied Ecological Services (AES)

Kim Chapman, Principal Ecologist

Doug Mensing, Senior Ecologist

Prior Lake, MN 55372

Avant Energy

Derick Dahlen, President

Molly Andvik, Project Manager and Senior Analyst

Minneapolis, MN 55402

Broadband Group

Tom Reiman, President

Las Vegas, NV 89144-4584

Some questions:

1. Who, exactly, paid for this fiasco and how much did it cost?

2. We have been sold gravel mining as a task for an LLC. The money from this speculative venture is to go into a quasi endowment. What does this have to do with the above project?

3. Why is the University, on the UMore Park site, soliciting contributions to this project?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Old Story - Still No Answers

Is the U ever going to do anything

about the double-dipping situation?

From David Durenberger's Newsletter:

August 18, 2008

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA ACADEMIC HEALTH CENTER maintains its silence on the allegations that two new professors have been double-dipping pay and expense reimbursement as employees of Georgia Tech and UMN. Francois Sainfort was recruited from Georgia Tech to head up the Division of Health Policy and Management in the AHC's School of Public Health. Sainfort and his wife, Julie Jacko, were signed to UMN employment contracts October 1, 2007 at $285,000 and $216,000 respectively or $99,000 over their GA Tech pay. Georgia Tech alleges they were still employed and paid there through the first of 2008.

After the story broke locally in April, Sainfort was pressed by his new faculty to go on leave from the directorship (for which $20,000 of his annual comp was allotted). In August, he informed faculty that he was asking Dean of Public Health John Finnegan to replace him as division director, the job the UMN went looking to fill 2 years ago. He calls the Georgia Tech charges "unexpected and unfair."

Sainfort is an industrial engineer who went to Georgia Tech from Wisconsin a few years ago as associate dean of its College of Engineering, as William George Chair Professor, and as head of a new Health Systems Institute designed to build capacity for Atlanta Children's Hospital in the research arena. His wife Julie was also on the Georgia Tech faculty in information technology. The UMN's price to get a new division head in public health was to take both Sainforts, creating a dual position in Nursing and in Health Policy and Management for Julie, and giving Francois their Mayo chair and authority to hire additional faculty. AHC head Dr. Frank Cerra was quoted then as saying, "This is all part of the 'medical arms race' for research talent among universities."

Two questions the University of Minnesota might want to answer to help us understand how "The Medical Arms Race" in academic healthcare works. First, was Sainfort actually leveraging the Minnesota job for money and a job for his spouse against other opportunities? Officials at Georgia Tech report that sometime after Sainfort and Jacko inked their UMN contracts, Sainfort made the three person "short list" of finalists for dean of Duke University's College of Engineering and Duke came checking up on him at Georgia Tech.

Second, if Sainfort is not the Division Director of Health Policy and Management at the U, who is? And what will it cost us to keep Sainfort-Jacko around the campus doing what? According to news reports Sainfort was coming with a high potential for garnering research grants, the financial lifeblood of the school. Under the circumstances it's hard to imagine the supposed 12 million dollars of GA Tech grants, much of which was designed for the Children's Hospital capacity building project, flying to UMN with Sainfort. The cloud which did accompany him here is also likely to make it difficult to secure new grants of any size to justify his employment.

Quite some time ago one of the suits in Morrill commented:

"We will try to piece this together in regard to whether something serious has indeed happened here in regard to so-called double-dipping."

Mark Rotenberg, U of M general counsel

Got that pieced together yet, Mr. Rotenberg?

Since the double dippers had their tenure revoked at Georgia Tech, it would appear that something bad might actually have happened?

Was double dipping one of the reasons for the tenure revocation process?

Maybe you could look into this? Some year?

Or have you been too busy fending off Senator Grassley and the Metropolitan Council?

Just to refresh your memory:

"The Board of Regents and the administration of the University made it clear years ago that it would not tolerate undisclosed, simultaneous full-time employment," Rotenberg said.

"As a matter of fact, Julie and I have not even signed an employee contract yet with Minnesota. ... We have only agreed to unofficially start this semester with full residence starting in May."

Francois Sainfort February Email

But the couple had already begun working full-time for the University of Minnesota at that time, according to documents. Mark Rotenberg, the general counsel for the U of M, said the couple's compensation and contracts at Minnesota began Oct. 1.

And another suit said:

"I think we need to put ourselves in the position of acting according to the highest ethical principles. I believe our people do that now and I believe our people will be doing that in the future as well." President Bruininks (Daily: 6-18-08)

Now this suit is apparently a fan of the global ethicist, Rushworth Kidder, or at least he likes to quote him...

Perhaps President Bruininks might actually want to pay attention to the mission statement of Dr. Kidder's Institute for Global Ethics:

"To promote ethical behavior in individuals, and cultures of integrity in institutions and nations through research, public discourse, and practical action"

In more down to earth, Wellstonian Minnesotan: "How about walking the talk?"

Double Dipper to Serve as Commentator

in talk at University of Minnesota

About Ethics

If we don't have integrity here at the U, then we have nothing...

"Computers, Patients, and the Health of Populations:
Next Steps in Ethics and Informatics"

Prof. Kenneth Goodman, PhD
University of Miami

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Commentators for this lecture are Prof. Julie Jacko, PhD, Director, Institute for Health Informatics

Now a lot of strange things have happened at the U in the area of ethics. For example we had Dr. David Polly speak in the Mini-Medical School last Spring on the ethics of industry/university conflict of interest. We had Professor Leo Furcht serve as co-chair of a committee that was to develop new rules for conflict of interest in the med school. Dr. Furcht himself had been disciplined for a major conflict of interest a few years earlier.

Arguments used by Dr. Cerra and Dr. Powell - former Dean and now a faculty member in Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (chaired by Dr. Furcht) - for Dr. Furcht's being on the committee were summarized by Margaret Soltan in her post about the Hannnibal Lechter executive strategy entitled: It takes a thief.

So what's wrong with Professor Jacko serving as commenter on a lecture about ethics?


Business As Usual at the U? Georgia Tech Confirms Tenure Revocation

Double dipping professors to have salaries, responsibilities reduced

Oh what a tangled web we weave (from the Atlanta Constitution)

I could go on, but you get the idea. Tolerating this kind of behavior by the University administration is sickening and demonstrates weak moral fiber. If we don't have integrity here at the U, what do we have?

Well we have a president who has the nerve to make statements like this:

"I think we need to put ourselves in the position of acting according to the highest ethical principles. I believe our people do that now and I believe our people will be doing that in the future as well." President Bruininks (Daily: 6-18-08)

President Bruininks, do you really think that people both inside and outside the U don't realize what is happening here? How long is this situation going to continue without action on your part?

The Graduation Rate Problem at the University of Minnesota
[Perhaps the Morrill Hall crowd needs to get a little more creative?]

The Daily has a nice article on the importance of graduating in four years, given our miserable statistics in that area.

Provost Tom Sullivan has a prominent place in the article. So I addressed some comments on the matter to him on the Daily website.

Here they are:

Provost Sullivan:

Are students not graduating in four years because they cannot afford high costs and large amounts of debt at the U of M?

Or do they have the highest debt upon graduation in the BigTen because they don't graduate in a timely fashion?

Since the Board of Regents has made the graduation rate problem - we have the lowest in the BigTen - a major target for significant improvement, the administration will have to look into these questions more deeply if time can be spared from other ambitious aspirations.

You might perhaps consider the Ohio State model, rather than the quasi-public high tuition model currently being pursued. Of course this would take leadership and cooperation with those in the state legislature.

From The Daily Iowan:

"Ohio State is entering its third year without any tuition increases, a promise the university made to students and families. State support also made it possible to avoid layoffs, and Ohio State employees are eligible for a 2.5 percent payroll increase..."

Another factor you might wish to look into: What is the difference in graduation rate for resident and non-resident students? Perhaps having 30% of our undergrads from out of state is not such a great idea. As with the honors program, residential colleges might help with graduation rates. This seems to be true for Greeks.

Our yield rate is about 1/3. Meaning that we accept about 15,000 of the 30,000 applicants and about 5,000 then choose to enroll here. (These are rough numbers.) This seems to indicate that we are not the first choice of the majority of our reasonable applicants. Perhaps if we accepted a larger number of qualified Minnesota applicants who really wanted to go here we would have better luck? There are institutions whose applicant pools have apparently lower grades and SAT numbers who kill us on the graduation rate statistic. Simply jacking up the credentials required to be accepted is not going to solve the problem and in fact may be exacerbating it.

Perhaps the Morrill Hall crowd needs to get a little more creative in solving this very important problem?

Always looking forward to a conversation...


Bill Gleason
U of M alum and faculty

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

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Leadership matters...

On Maximizing Tuition Revenue

at the University of Minnesota

According to our administration this is the only strategy left to us at the U. This does not appear to be the case at Ohio State. Perhaps this is because the relationship of the state legislature and the university there is a lot closer. Perhaps we could work on this, President Bruininks?

From the Daily Iowan:

Ohio State is entering its third year without any tuition increases, a promise the university made to students and families. State support also made it possible to avoid layoffs, and Ohio State employees are eligible for a 2.5 percent payroll increase, Lynch said.
Another problem with the claim of maximizing tuition revenue is the situation with respect to tuition for out of state applicants. The U slashed this number a few years ago in an attempt to make us more attractive. This may have helped in the numbers area - ACT scores, etc. - that are important in the beauty contest that is USNews rankings. However, it had the effect of squeezing out yet more qualified Minnesota applicants and at what appear to be bargain prices.

Data from the Wisconsin Provost's Office:

Non-Resident Tuition

BigTen Public Universities

[Academic Planning & Analysis, Office of the Provost, UW-Madison]

Minnesota $15,293

Iowa 22,198
Ohio St. 22,278
Wisconsin 23,063

Purdue 25,118
Indiana 26,160
Illinois 26,650
Penn State 25, 946
Michigan St. 27,781

Michigan 36,163
Now these number seem quite remarkable. Why is it that we are charging so much less than our competitors at Iowa and Wisconsin? And apparently Michigan can get away with charging out of state students more than twice what we do. Something does not make sense here...

I've heard it claimed that the out of state rate charged at Minnesota fully covers the cost of education and is not a subsidy, although no convincing numbers have been produced to back up this claim. If this is the case, then the tuition in state students are being charged, plus the funding from the state, would seem to more than cover educational expenses for Minnesota students.

If the above analysis is correct, why is it that the solution to financial problems at the U is to make the undergrads basically subsidize the University?

And why is it that qualified Minnesota residents are being squeezed out of the U of M by this administration's strategy of fire sale rates for out of state tuition?

And doesn't the situation at Ohio State indicate that there are other ways to deal with this problem?

Leadership matters.

Dr. Bruininks? Provost Sullivan?


Thursday, October 15, 2009

If you can't compete on quality, compete on price?

Maximizing Tuition Revenue

at the University of Minnesota?

Why the fire sale on out of state tuition
at the University of Minnesota?

Data from: BigTenTution (pdf):

The citation above lists in state and out of state tution for all of the BigTen schools. The U of M stands out (in fact we are number one) in having the smallest increment for out of state students. Why is this? Why is it that schools supposedly a lot lower down the pecking order (I am not sure they are) - Iowa, Purdue, and Indiana - can charge a helluva lot more and are still apparently attractive enough to out of state students?

I don't really believe that this strategy is an accident and in fact it is directed toward pushing the administration's strategic propaganda initiative and raising our numbers for the benefit of USNews...
Difference between in state and out of state tuition
--> Minnesota $3,990? ($4,000, actually)

Penn State 11,530
Ohio State 13,572
Illinois 14,142
Wisconsin 14,749
Iowa 15,374
Mich St 16,398
Purdue 16,480
Indiana 17,547
Michigan 23,763
You see, it is all about numbers.

USNews numbers to be specific

If we have the lowest out of state rates in the BigTen (and we do by far) then we can get more out of state applicants and cherry pick those with high ACTs or other desirable characteristics for bringing us up in the popularity polls. Meanwhile qualified Minnesota residents are being squeezed out...

Not nice (or right) Bob and Tom?

For further thoughts on the matter, please see: A medallion or a Yugo?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The University of Minnesota Daily Comes Down Hard on U Administration... (or the Daily reams 'em a new one)

"As for commitment to quality education at an affordable cost? Meaningless drivel. The administration has flatly failed on its promises of excellence and affordability." Daily (13 Oct 2009)
From the Daily:

Is there no more fat to trim?

Cuts due to budget deficits endanger the U and its affordability

Unfortunately, even if you’ve been accepted to this increasingly competitive University and been given a private scholarship, the cost of your education is only going up while the quality appears to be going down. To deal with budget deficits, the administration is now looking to pump tuition and “decrease the scope of the University’s mission.” Some 800 positions will go unfilled along with roughly 400 layoffs as part of that decrease. For students, this means larger class sizes, fewer TAs, fewer class offerings and less-qualified instruction.

As for commitment to quality education at an affordable cost? Meaningless drivel. The administration has flatly failed on its promises of excellence and affordability. Maybe we should quit paying for so many administrators to feed us feel-good baloney and instead invest the savings in what they talk about. Of course, that’s up to the administration.

Give the State [Minnesota] An Ultimatum?

From the University of Minnesota Daily:

If Minnesota won't fund the university, ax outreach and research

Last week, a Board of Regents task force determined that “the University’s financial architecture has undergone … a permanent paradigm shift. The decline and reset of state support and the increased reliance on tuition revenue are permanent changes unlikely to be reversed.” This conclusion isn’t as realistic as it is cynical, especially when the task force argues that the University must forge a “new covenant” with the state of Minnesota to reestablish fiscal support.

But it does appear that Minnesota is losing its luster as an exceptionally educative state. Earlier this year, former Gov. Al Quie lamented to MinnPost that “Minnesotans have lost a sense of direct responsibility for their colleges and universities.” With the future of state appropriations in question, the University needs to figure out how to play hardball with the legislature and the governor.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s unallotment gave administration an ultimatum: crank up tuition or take out the cleaver. Likely favoring the former, the University will come out looking even more like a high-tuition, high-aid private college and less like the public research university Minnesotans know us as. Perhaps it’s time we play the cards Minnesota has dealt us and start cutting University research and outreach.

Sure, the University has land grant responsibilities to the state: sharing its knowledge and applying it to the economy. Borlaug’s wheat, Honeycrisp apples, an artificial heart.

It is backward to expect the University to fulfill its state responsibilities without appropriate state funding. The University must give an ultimatum to the state: Either you allow us to remain a public land grant university with research and state outreach or else our students foot the bill and we focus on solely their education.

In your dreams

"or else our students foot the bill and we focus on solely their education."

We could probably do a pretty good job of educating students if this actually happened. Unfortunately the waters are muddied by a vainglorious attempt to become one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic].

As to giving an ultimatum to the State Legislature, I'd be careful with that one.

Mr Pfutzenreuter and Rep. Rukavina got into it about this on tuition increases... The plan was to go for a high number and Rukavina put a limit on it in the funding bill. Pfutzenreuter and the Morrill Hall crowd would like to think that they can do anything they want, and maybe technically they can. But as Rukavina put it: "It's [a limit on tuition increase] in the bill, so sue me."

Time to get real around here?

The problem is that we have no leverage. And the current administration does not know how to get any. "Wrestling requires increasing leverage against your opponent in order to gain the advantage." Norman Borlaug and J Robinson knew/know about this. Robert Bruininks and Tom Sullivan do not.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Daily Calls Out U Admin On Coming High Tuition Model

“I’ve never been more shocked and disheartened by this University and the philosophy of its administration.

Former Student Senate Chair Ryan Kennedy

From the Daily:

by John Brown

Last Thursday afternoon, the McNamara Alumni Center offered reprieve, or so I’d thought, for my body chilled by fall wind. Only after I entered the crystalline geomorphic dome and sat down in the sixth floor Regents' Board Room to the University of Minnesota Financing the Future Task Force, did it become clear to me wherefrom those chill winds blew.

While presenting the report, Vice President and CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter implied the University had been fiscally blindsided by the state of Minnesota in a “dramatic and permanent reset of the University’s sources of revenue.”

[Fiscally blindsided?

As a reader wrote to me about this comment:

If the CFO at the U of M believes that the U was "fiscally blindsided" by the declining state support for higher education, then he should be fired for incompetence. (The U itself published information on the long decline in state support in the Reverse the Trend booklet in January 2005.)]

Posturing as if the Minnesota divestment trend amounted to breaking news, the task force established the foundation for a slate of drastic budgetary recommendations:

1) Grow a larger and more diversified portfolio of revenues;

2) Grow tuition revenue while ensuring financial access;

3) Substantially increase administrative and academic effectiveness, reduce costs and boost efficiency;

4) Narrow the scope of the University’s mission to advance a distinctive constellation of excellence.

For those unaccustomed to the shifty indicators or connotative nature of higher education hyper-jargon, focus on strategies 1 and 2. Note their prominence within the hierarchy.

Strategy 1, broad and vague, grows revenues. It relies in part on a new “covenant” with the State of Minnesota (the same state that has permanently reduced University funding) and in part on the speculation of increased private donations. It fails the litmus of institutional sincerity and fiscal dependability. So why include this “non”-strategy? It serves to prime the University to the revenue growth mantra, pitched more specifically as Strategy 2, a “tuition fix.”

...the roadmap’s direction was blatant enough for former Student Senate Chair Ryan Kennedy to remark, “I’ve never been more shocked and disheartened by this University and the philosophy of its administration.” And Messianic recitals by Vice Presidents Steven Rosenstone and Richard Pfutzenreuter that tuition “is the revenue stream with the highest potential for long-term growth” offered little calm to students.

And framing the “new reality” as a loss of revenues rather than an explosion of costs seeks only to justify the corollary revenue-side tuition fix. Comparatively, the report lacked the will to cut costs.

It did graphically represent three approaches for closing or narrowing the widening University revenue gap, which could amount to an annual $1.1 billion by 2025 if trends remain.

Conspicuously, all three scenarios hiked tuition (the only strategy that closes the projected gap pegs long-term tuition growth at 9.8 percent annually for Twin Cities undergraduates). None of the graphs modeled programmatic, employee or facility expense reductions — a not-so subtle admission of near-, mid- and long-term reliance on raising student tuition costs.

Strategy 3, far from a cut, actually reads as if administration might get more money, to fund “explicit and consistent incentives in the internal budget model for increased efficiency.” These incentives best not come by the thinning dime of students and families, who have already seen tuition rise some 165 percent over the past decade. The University must not have sufficiently “incentivized” its stewards to curb tuition or partner with the state. For its part, the state of Minnesota must plainly reverse its fair-weather University support.

[We are perceived by the legislature and the citizens of the state as arrogant and greedy. For better relations with the legislature a change in leadership and direction is desperately needed.]

Last year, Chairman of the House Higher Education Committee Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Va., said of administration, “They are going to lose a lot of friends at the Capitol if they jack up that tuition … They’re pricing themselves out of work if they keep going up 7.5 percent.” Are we poised to burn the last remnants of structural integrity in the state partnership bridge?

[The writer understands the problem we face. Our administration does not. Thank God for Tom Rukavina or they would have jacked up tuition even higher than it is now...]

“Morris, Crookston and Duluth are already priced beyond market and may not be able to absorb significant tuition increases,” but the task force offered a bleak alternative: an “aggressive tuition option” targeting “undergraduate students on the Twin Cities campus, who account for 45 percent of the University’s tuition revenue.” These families and students already pay tenuously close to market, leaving them top-notch debt loads after graduation for Big Ten public universities. But, clearly, these Minnesota students and their families can bend lower. President Paul Strain of the Minnesota Student Association put it simply: “It’s pretty clear that if tuition gets to where people can’t afford it, they’ll stop coming here.”

[I've been hammering away on the debt issue. The U admin has never directly addressed it, to my knowledge. They think that the so-called scholarship money is an answer. I simply don't believe this. Why is our debt so high? I've directly challenged the President to write an essay in the Daily that answers this question.]

Ever barred from the chopping block is the sacred cow “strategic positioning agenda” — that broad canard of University priorities approved in 2005 “to become by [2015] one of the top three public research universities in the world.”

[This misguided adminspeak has basically made us look either naive and stupid or like shameless patent medicine salesmen.]

The directive, planned in the decadent ignorance of post-millennial expansion, appeared at first an earnest attempt toward educational excellence. But to finance planning and implementation, institutional and academic support costs have steadily risen; as we approach the strategic initiative’s halfway point, some indicators point to a net drop in University position.

[That would be yes. In the latest Times Higher Education world university survey we have fallen from last year's 87th to this years 105th. Top three public research universities in the world? Absurd, absolutely absurd. And this should NOT be our goal. Why not one of the best public schools in the BigTen? Those of us who dare to differ from the admin's top three goal are called doubters by President Bruininks.]

After delivering such dark tuition prospects to a largely “optimistic” Board of Regents, University President Bob Bruininks audaciously requested tuition-payers fall lock-step in line, asking that “students, staff and faculty work in partnership with [the] Board.” An especially outrageous assertion, considering only two members of the 22-strong task force were students. If administration sincerely seeks partnership, students deserve drastically better representation on future task forces.