U of M president says school faces tough challenges

U of M president Robert Bruininks
U of M president Robert Bruininks told faculty, staff and students that the school faces one of its worst budget situations ever.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Bruininks delivered his annual state of the University address Thursday to a crowd of about 300 faculty, staff and students.

Bruininks told the audience he fears the U could see a $200 million dollar cut in its base funding as the state grapples with a $4.6 billion dollar deficit.

"State support is on the wrong trajectory. And recent history shows as state funding slips, so does our ability to compete for federal dollars and private support."

Bruininks said the University will likely see layoffs in the coming year. He told the crowd that the budget problems will hit all divisions on campus.

"We are going to have some shared sacrifices here at the University of Minnesota," Bruininks said. "And I can assure you, administrators at the University are not going to be spared from those sacrifices."

Bruininks said the University has strengthened in recent years. He said in the last decade, four-year graduation rates have doubled. The U now awards nearly 14,000 degrees a year.

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Bruininks cited the strength of the University research enterprise which made $675 million for the school in 2007.

And despite the slumping economy, Bruininks said the U received the three largest donations in history in the last year. The total $155 million, and will be used for cancer and diabetes research along with children's healthcare.

But he said cuts in state support could put that performance in jeopardy. Bruininks asked faculty and staff to advocate for strong support for the U.

He also said the U needs to be accountable for the support it receives. Bruininks said the U needs to improve its service and efficiency and graduate more students in less time.

Bruininks said the school needs to look past the current budget problems, and prepare for the future. He said the University will need to educate a more diverse study body in coming years, and will need to recruit students locally as well as internationally.

Bruininks challenged the state and the university to fund more scholarship programs, so more low and middle-income students can attend college.

Bruininks said the University will work to expand those scholarship programs to help fund outreach to younger students, and college readiness programs.