On Campus Blog

Bruininks: We need to fight off deeper cuts to the U of Minnesota

Here are excerpts from University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks' prepared remarks today to the state House committee on higher education.

Although he has welcomed Gov. Mark Dayton's proposed cuts of 6 percent, in this section he talks about the impact of cuts if they end up going deeper.

(Note: I believe the scenarios he lists are not proposals -- just a way of illustrating the size of the cuts necessary.)

Impact of Deeper Cuts

For several years now we have warned of a future tipping point, in which we would no longer be able to sustain deep cuts and remain the University of Minnesota that our state expects and deserves.

That tipping point has arrived.

With a 15 or 20% cut in state support, we are no longer talking about reducing or eliminating offices, centers, courses and sections; cutting operational costs and degree programs; or consolidating colleges. Instead, we would be forced to re-examine the impact and financial viability of entire operations: statewide services; entire schools, colleges, and campuses; you name it.

That’s not a threat—it’s simply a matter of scale. A cut in state support of 15% is nearly $100M. A deeper cut of 20% equals nearly $130M. What would that mean to the University of Minnesota?

  • We could eliminate the Medical Schools on both the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses—which receives $87.2M in state support (or nearly 25% of the U’s total allocation)—and still not fill the hole in our budget.

  • Alternatively, we could eliminate all four of our coordinate campuses—$76.0M in state support—and not balance the budget.

  • We could eliminate the College of Science and Engineering, which produces nearly half of the state’s STEM degrees and significantly higher percentages of graduate and professional degrees in these fields, and close the schools of Pharmacy and Dentistry—$83.5M in state support—and still be in the red.

  • We could eliminate the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, which protects the health of our population and our animal agriculture industry from animal-borne diseases (such as avian influenza). Currently this laboratory is subsidized by the University’s other operations, because sending biological samples to Wisconsin or Iowa for testing is simply not viable. We could then close all of our remaining regional Extension offices—saving a combined total of $30.2M in state support—and we still would not have solved even a third of the proposed cut.

Just as the state cannot simply raise taxes to cover its shortfall, we cannot address a state cut of this magnitude by growing revenues.

Research funding and private support are designated to specific purposes and can’t be used for day-to-day operations. As a result, a state cut of 15 to 20% would require a tuition increase of 13 to 17%, jeopardizing the futures of countless U students. On the other hand, reducing staff in order to meet this cut could add as many as 1,700 workers to Minnesota’s unemployed—and that would still require us to eliminate entire operations in order to continue others.

Or we could slash our enrollment, and send our best and brightest out of state, then try to woo them back once they’ve earned their degrees and made professional connections elsewhere. ... (Yet) time and time again, I hear from Minnesota’s business leaders: We would not be here without the University of Minnesota.

... Obviously the U must significantly reduce spending and increase revenues—we have done so, and we will continue to do so. But reductions of the magnitude proposed will change the very nature of the University of Minnesota. Changing the nature of the University is not a trivial matter. It could export thousands of good jobs and talented students to other states. It could diminish our ability to create the new ideas and solutions that are vital to competitiveness in the global economy. ...

... For 160 years now, Minnesotans have invested in the University of Minnesota. For six generations, the University has delivered on its public mission, generating new knowledge, new ideas, new solutions, new jobs, and new talent for Minnesota.

Six generations of greatness—and we could lose it in a few bad years.


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