What the chief UMN regent says about Arne Carlson's criticism

Today, University of Minnesota Board of Regents Chairwoman Linda Cohen defends her colleagues and the university in a Star Tribune editorial countering Sunday's critical pice by former Gov. Arne Carlson.

She says Carlson's piece contains "inaccurate information, omissions and contradictory criticisms."

She summarizes the U's cost-cutting record:

The university has realized millions of dollars of savings by closing and merging colleges, freezing salaries, leaving faculty slots open, drastically cutting energy and technology costs, decommissioning old buildings, increasing employee-paid health care premiums, eliminating entire administrative offices and vice president positions, and redirecting administrative costs to our core missions of teaching, research and outreach.

She makes a salary comparison with the higher-ed world that folks (such as Carlson) may or may not think is valid, considering the criticism of the entire higher-ed market:

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"... The salaries of President Kaler’s senior team are below the median salaries of the equivalent individuals in the Big Ten and in our university peer group. Kaler’s compensation ranks fourth among public institutions in the Big Ten, and there are more than 100 presidents of public and private institutions in America who earn more."

She makes a related comparison to other schools in the state:

Minnesotans might be surprised to learn that for families earning adjusted gross incomes of $75,000 or less, the university’s Twin Cities campus has a lower net price (tuition, fees, room and board minus financial aid) than any other four-year college in the state — public or private.

She also brings up an argument that higher-ed officials here often use to explain rising tuition: a $140 million reduction in annual state support to the university since 2008.

With Cohen arguing that the U has taken many steps to fight higher tuition, in the end, to her it may get down to this:

Making the necessary changes and investments takes time. Some would like the university to move even faster in tackling the challenges we face. But we also are conscious of the necessary balance between moving swiftly and moving thoughtfully in a dynamic, evolving marketplace.

Read her opinion in full here.