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."

No comments: