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May 30, 2008

Does MoreU Park Really Make Sense?

"Raise that tuition, dig that gravel, buy that Coke, sell that soul..."

gravel truck.jpg

Latest from SpamU:

The Vision for UMore Park
View Concept Scenarios, Offer Comments at June Campus Forums

Two upcoming campus forums will provide opportunities for University faculty, staff and students to learn more about the University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Park and Vermillion Highlands, and view concept planning scenarios. Your suggestions can help to shape the future of the properties and create opportunities for research and learning experiences. Attend a campus forum and open house or participate live via UMConnect. Please see the event flyer for additional information. RSVP at www.umorepark.umn.edu or by calling 612-626-3798.


* Minneapolis Campus: Monday, June 16, 9:30 a.m. at Coffman Memorial Union, Campus Club, Rooms A, B & C
* St. Paul Campus: Tuesday, June 17, 12:00 noon at the Student Center, North Star Ballroom
* Public Community Forums: Thursday, June 19 and Monday, June 23 at the Rosemount Community Center

Participate in the campus forums live online via UMConnect by going to https://umconnect.umn.edu/umorepark/.

* Watch the forum presentation, including PowerPoint, through a webcast.
* Submit questions via a moderator during the Q&A (additional UMConnect information will be available at www.umorepark.umn.edu).

Other ways to be involved:

* View the concept scenarios for the properties and provide feedback at www.umorepark.umn.edu after June 12.
* Comment on UMore Park or Vermillion Highlands anytime at www.umorepark.umn.edu/comments.

Excuse me sir, should we be doing this right now? Does it make a whole lot of sense considering the price of gasoline and other financial problems? Maybe we should just sell the gravel and forget about the rest of this?

And the summer is a great time to discuss this! No one is here, it can be claimed that the constituencies have been consulted, and we can get on with yet another administration-sponsored boondoggle.

May 29, 2008

The U Always Seems to Be Able to Come Up With Money for Advertising Campaigns and Lobbyists...


From the Pioneer Planet:

In what's revealing itself as a clash of cultures — academia vs. politics — the University of Minnesota voted "no" Wednesday to the Central Corridor light-rail route favored by every local political entity involved.

But the consensus that was sought is gone, at least for the moment.

University Vice President Kathleen O'Brien said the U doesn't plan to sue to stop the project, but she didn't rule out continued lobbying by Patton Boggs, an influential Washington, D.C., firm that the U has retained for, in O'Brien's words, "less than five figures."

But local and state officials predict the now-undeniable discord could kill federal approval of the project — a prediction the university says is without merit.

University officials hired Patton Boggs to seek out a federal timetable contrary to the Met Council's, a directive that local officials read as a challenge to their competence. University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg wrote a 23-page legal memo to federal officials charging that the U was being railroaded, a memo that politicians said was naive because it invited scrutiny from federal bureaucrats.

Who's right and who's wrong remains to be seen, but after listening to O'Brien on Wednesday, state Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, stepped up to an array of TV cameras and microphones and let loose the word politicians had been muttering for months but had refused to say publicly: arrogance.

"The U is simply accustomed to getting their own way," she said.

Met Council OKs LRT Route Through 'U' Campus

WCCO reports:

The Metropolitan Council has approved the route for a new stretch of light rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and voted to discontinue further study of a northern route that the University of Minnesota preferred.

The new Central Corridor light rail line route will run right down Washington Avenue in Minneapolis to University Avenue and then into St. Paul. That would mean several blocks of Washington Avenue will be for pedestrians and trains only, no cars. That's an option the University of Minnesota doesn't like.

The University of Minnesota wanted the train to head north through Dinkytown along an old railroad track and stay off Washington Avenue, but their hopes were dashed on Wednesday.

"We will be putting no more staff time or resources into exploring this option," said Metropolitan Council President Peter Bell.

"Lead, follow, or get out of the way."
I think that last option is the only one left, Bob.

May 28, 2008

New UW-Madison Chancellor Named

Biddy gets the bid.

From the Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin:

Todd Finkelmeyer — 5/28/2008 1:24 pm

Carolyn ["Biddy"] Martin has been named the next UW-Madison chancellor, pending Board of Regents approval, UW System President Kevin Reilly announced Wednesday afternoon in a news release.

"In her years at Cornell, Dr. Martin has established a reputation for strong, effective and strategic leadership," Reilly said in a statement. "As the provost of New York's land-grant research university, she has wide-ranging experience with all of the roles UW-Madison must play in the life of this state, the nation and the world. She is someone who appreciates fully the importance of education to the future of American society, and conveys that message to others with a high degree of passion and credibility."

May 27, 2008

Mulcahy withdraws bid for UWM chancellor

From the Daily:

University Vice President for Research Timothy Mulcahy has withdrawn his name for the position of chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison last Thursday.

Mulcahy said in a statement that he made the "difficult decision" to notify the selection committee of his decision last Thursday after weighing personal and professional factors.

"In the end, my personal desire to enjoy quality time with my wife, children, and grandchildren, combined with my professional interest in advancing a wide range of initiatives I have started at the University of Minnesota, led me to this decision," he said.

News of his withdrawal came just hours after five regents held a special committee meeting held this morning with a task of recommending a candidate for the position.

No additional meetings have been scheduled, which may mean the regents are prepared to offer their recommendation to University of Wisconsin system President Kevin Reilly, system spokesman Kevin Giroux said.

The finalists for the chancellor position are Cornell University Provost Biddy Martin, University of Wisconsin-Madison dean of letters and sciences Gary Sandefur and University of Michigan economy and public policy professor Rebecca Blank .

Mulcahy has held his position at the University since February 2005. He was not available for comment.

U prez: We won't budge on light rail

From the Pioneer Press:

Bob Bruininks won't budge.

After a 1-week allowance to get on board the current plan for the Central Corridor, the University of Minnesota president has decided to oppose the plan, according to a letter Bruininks sent to Met Council Chair Peter Bell.

Furthermore, if the U's opposition causes a delay in the light rail plan to link St. Paul and Minneapolis by 2014, then so be it, Bruininks says in the letter, obtained by the Pioneer Press.

"In accordance with the Board of Regents Resolution dated July 12, 2001 and periodically reviewed and re-affirmed as recently as April 2008, the University cannot support any measure that calls for the elimination of the northern alignment from consideration at this time," Bruininks wrote in the letter, dated Friday.

On Minnesota Public Radio this morning, Bell, a former regent himself, expressed frustration with the university's opposition. "Why they're doing that is anyone's guess," he said. "I respectfully disagree with him," Bell said of Bruininks' position.

A re-vote is scheduled for tomorrow, and Bell said the vote will go forward.

"I think the vote will be unanimous, with the exception of how the university will vote," he said on MPR.

May 25, 2008

Washington Avenue is Best Route for LRT


The Star-Tribune Editorializes:

Three months of engineering study comparing two possible routes for the Central Corridor light-rail line through the University of Minnesota are over, and the results are decisive: One route can be built sooner and will serve more people. It's on Washington Avenue, which would be converted to an auto-free transit and pedestrian mall.

The University of Minnesota's preferred route, a "northern alignment" through Dinkytown and north of the new Gopher football stadium, was held up to comparison with the Washington Avenue option last Wednesday in a four-hour meeting of the 12-member Central Corridor management committee. A vote by the panel was delayed for one week, at the request of Gov. Tim Pawlenty and University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks. But in agreeing to the delay, a majority of committee members also indicated a strong preference for the Washington Avenue route. It's our choice, too. Here's why:

•The transit mall can be built by 2014, while the Dinkytown route would require at least one and possibly two more years to build. Each year of delay is projected to boost the project's costs $40 million, not to mention the costs associated with keeping would-be transit users stuck in traffic.

•The feasibility of the Dinkytown route remains in doubt, Central Corridor project director Mark Fuhrmann said. Its proximity to freight trains and polluted land pose problems that may prove too costly to solve.

•Ridership projections are considerably lower for the Dinkytown route -- in the range of 6,000 riders per weekday -- even if federal rules are bent to account for the presence of the university's shuttle bus system. There's no assurance that the Federal Transit Administration would permit that kind of twist in its rules. Satisfying the FTA matters because the feds are expected to pay half of the new line's $900 million cost.

•Even with the bending of the federal formulas, the Dinkytown route would not meet the cost-effectiveness test federal rules impose. A Washington Avenue transit mall does.

•A $25 million traffic mitigation plan is in the works to cushion the surrounding neighborhood from ill effects from the diversion of auto traffic under the Washington Avenue plan. A strategy has also been identified for protecting research buildings from the intrusion of unwanted electrical fields.

University officials argue that the Dinkytown route would be less disruptive to existing traffic patterns and human habits.

That's true, but that argument overlooks the possibility that moving 90 percent of vehicular traffic off of Washington Avenue might be a desirable disruption for the university. The East Bank campus likely would be safer, quieter and more attractive without bumper-to-bumper traffic chugging through its heart day and night. Central Corridor planners expect to spend $11 million on the transit mall's design -- enough to turn the stretch into what Mayor R.T. Rybak calls "a new front door for the university."

Delay in action by the corridor management team and the Metropolitan Council affords all the stakeholders more time to ponder the implications of the engineers' analyses of the two routes. Although a few more days won't change the numbers that favor Washington Avenue, they may give the creative thinkers in charge of the Central Corridor line a chance to help the university community feel more comfortable with the only real option that remains.

I hope that as much effort will be expended in making the pedestrian mall - Southern Route - work as has been expended in attempts at its obstruction, Bob.

May 23, 2008

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

I have posted the text of my remarks to the open forum on the budget at the Regent's meeting on May 21.

The Daily has a brief summary of the forum on their website.

Jim Chen has also posted those remarks as well as his own commentary on MoneyLaw. That post starts with the following very pertinent illustration:


May 22, 2008

Central Corridor / U given a week to chew on rail route


So what happened at yesterday's marathon session?

As usual the Pioneer Press is on the case:

They didn't want to shove it down the U's throat.

So Central Corridor backers dropped their preferred light-rail route in the University of Minnesota's mouth Wednesday, and, at the indirect urging of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, gave them a week to swallow it on their own.

The weeklong accommodation by a key advisory panel was intended to avoid a showdown and was the culmination of what amounted to a show trial that took four hours to unfold Wednesday afternoon.

At issue is the university's lingering support for a different route through campus as the planned light-rail line runs between the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul, generally along University Avenue.

Except for the U, all relevant local officials — staff and elected representatives from St. Paul, Minneapolis, Ramsey and Hennepin counties and the Pawlenty-appointed Metropolitan Council — support trains rolling along Washington Avenue.

The university's lobbying in Washington over the past month troubled rail officials because it drew attention — not in a good way — from federal officials whose support is needed to recommend half the funding of the roughly $900 million construction.

This week, a university consultant completed a months-long study of the Dinkytown detour. It concluded that the route would cost less but attract roughly 6,000 fewer riders, thus making it fail a key benchmark the federal government uses to grade projects. When the study's results did not prompt university officials to relent, other officials got on the phone Tuesday, calling on political and business leaders to mount pressure on the U.

Meanwhile, U President Robert Bruininks called Pawlenty on Tuesday night, "very concerned about what was going to happen at the meeting," said Met Council Chairman Peter Bell, a Pawlenty appointee. Pawlenty Chief of Staff Matt Kramer called Bell and requested the weeklong reprieve, Bell said.

It began with Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, urging everyone to "respectfully" end their "differences." Kelliher and other lawmakers last weekend collaborated with Pawlenty to work out a deal to ensure a crucial $70 million in state funding for the project.

Then Central Corridor project director Mark Fuhrmann testified, explaining that engineers had figured out solutions to several lingering questions along the Washington Avenue route, including $35 million in improvements to address the traffic tangles created by prohibiting cars on Washington Avenue.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Ramsey County Commissioner Toni Carter noted that extra funds directed at the U amounted to further concessions from their side of the river to please the school. A Minneapolis city engineer briefly took the stand to state that every city and county engineer and planner involved with the project agreed with Fuhrmann.

Next, university officials, led by Vice President Kathleen O'Brien, made their case for the Dinkytown route, arguing that it dovetailed better into future campus expansion, which would likely occur to the north.

Then Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, whose district includes the university, introduced a pre-vetted resolution calling on the panel to adopt the Washington Avenue route and end any further discussion or study of the Dinkytown detour. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak seconded it. Everyone except O'Brien said they supported it, including Bob McFarlin, Pawlenty's assistant transportation commissioner.

Then Bell told the story of Bruininks' call to Pawlenty and the request from the governor's office. Bell said the extra week was "in deference to the university."

May 21, 2008

U clings to solitary stand on rail route


That despite own study saying Dinkytown Detour fails federal funding test

From the Pioneer Press:

Today could be an angry day for the Central Corridor.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is happy. State lawmakers are happy. They reached a deal last weekend for the state to borrow $70 million as part of a funding plan to build the $909 million light-rail transit project linking St. Paul and Minneapolis, making local officials happy.

But the University of Minnesota is not part of that happy pack.

Instead, the U continues to fight for a route that no one else wants. It would take a track around the northern edge of its campus through the Dinkytown neighborhood of Minneapolis.

Everyone else wants the train to run through campus along Washington Avenue.

On Tuesday, the Pioneer Press obtained a copy of a study the U sponsored to bolster its argument for the so-called Dinkytown Detour. The 1 1/2-inch-thick report, titled "Central Corridor Light Rail Transit: Northern Alignment Alternative Feasibility Study" by the SRF Consulting Group, took months to complete and concluded the route won't pass an important test. Without passing that test, it would be hard to get $450 million from Washington to help build the train.

At noon today, all the important local people — St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, commissioners from Ramsey and Hennepin counties, U Vice President Kathleen O'Brien and Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell — will sit down to talk about it.

Everyone except O'Brien is mad at the U. The others might accuse the U of "sabotaging" the train because the school doesn't like the route everyone else likes.

Some of the people in the room will want to fight. They will want to force O'Brien to vote, thinking perhaps that will help her to picture a newspaper headline someday that might read: "U kills Central Corridor."

That would be bad for the U because school officials always say they like the train.

Or, everyone could smile, and not vote on anything.

Bell said Tuesday he doesn't know what will happen. But he said both the Washington Avenue and Dinkytown routes will be featured in side-by-side comparisons at the meeting.

O'Brien did not return phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Here are some of the complicated details they will talk — and perhaps argue — about today:

The U-sponsored study is a linchpin of its effort to reroute the train off Washington Avenue because of concerns about traffic and safety. The report concluded the Dinkytown plan would cost less but attract several thousand fewer riders than the route along Washington Avenue.

Because of the fewer riders, the U's route would fail a complex federal formula known as the Cost Effectiveness Index, or CEI. The current CEI sought by the Federal Transit Administration is 23.99 or below.

The Washington Avenue route, which would cost $909 million, is 23.80. The U's Dinkytown route, which would cost between $889 million and $894 million, would have a CEI of between 28.25 and 28.44, according to the U's study, which notes that 23.99 "is recommended" by the FTA to be considered for federal funding.

The FTA is needed to pay half the construction cost.

In the report, the university says it could lower the CEI to maybe 24.58 — still too high — if it could get permission from the FTA to change its computer models.

Others point out it took two years to get that kind of permission the last time anyone tried.

The U says time isn't as big a deal as others say. But everyone else says delays will make them mad because rising construction and materials costs will add up to $40 million a year for every year the project is late. The goal is to start construction in 2010 and have trains running by 2014


Nice work, Bob.

May 20, 2008

Surprise, Surprise…

U’s Rail Route Would Fail Federal Scoring, Their Own Study Says

From the Pioneer Press:

The University of Minnesota's preferred route for the Central Corridor would fail to pass — big time — a key scoring index needed for federal approval, according to records obtained by the Pioneer Press today.

The conclusion is contained in an inch-or-so-thick U-sponsored report that took months to complete — a linchpin of its effort to re-route the train off Washington Avenue as it courses through campus linking St. Paul and Minneapolis. A copy of the draft report, "Central Corridor Light Rail Transit: Northern Alignment Alternative Feasibility Study" by SRF Consulting Group, was examined by the Pioneer Press this afternoon.

The jig is finally up Bob.

Time to do the right thing?

Openness, transparency, doing what is best for the citizens of the state - how about it?

Ready to (finally) walk the talk?

Or maybe you would prefer to continue doing the Hillary?

Do the Right Thing

From MPR:

by Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio May 19, 2008

St. Paul, Minn. — Supporters of the Central Corridor light rail line breathed a sigh of relief this weekend when Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders ended their marathon talks with an a deal that includes state funding for construction.

Half of the money for the $909-million project is expected to come from the federal government, so $70 million from the state might not seem like a lot. But without it, the rest of the funding was in limbo.

But the money wasn't so solid last month, after Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed the $70 million from a bonding bill.

Pawlenty said concerns with the project that forced his veto last month have now been satisfied. The funding, for example, also comes with an additional requirement that the state pay no more than 10 percent of the total construction costs.

Now with the funding back in place, supporters of the Central Corridor can turn to finalizing the line's route.

The current plan takes tracks down Washington Avenue, while university officials recently suggested a northern route, through Dinkytown.

Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said he doesn't think the Dinkytown route can be done to the federal government's standards, which would put federal funding at risk.

And Bell said the council will probably put the university issue to rest this week. Council members will either vote to stick with the current Washington Avenue route or go with Dinkytown. Either way, it should let the entire project move forward.

"I think the residents of the seven-county area can look forward to the certainty of an expanded transit system, with a line that will provide a strong degree of service," Bell said.

In a statement today, university President Robert Bruininks praised the new state funding for the Central Corridor and says the school is committed to finding a workable solution.

May 11, 2008

The Governor and OurLeader Support the Central Corridor


Or, Damning With Faint Praise?

From the Pioneer Press

It would be one thing if either Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty or the Democratic-Farmer-Labor majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate actively opposed a light-rail project linking St. Paul and Minneapolis. That would make it easier to understand why the project sits on a siding as the regular legislative session enters its final week.

But Pawlenty, while not blowing train whistles with enthusiasm, supported $70 million in state funding for the Central Corridor project earlier this year. His appointed Metropolitan Council chair, Peter Bell, sees the project as critical and has worked hard to reduce costs and remove roadblocks. DFL legislative leaders have the pro-rail enthusiasm the governor lacks, and even enacted (over his veto) a measure allowing an increase in metropolitan sales taxes to help fund transit.

We support the project as a vital link in our transportation network and as another option for those driven out of their cars by gas-pump-shock. We would be upset if our state leaders decided the project is unneeded or that economic conditions call for a postponement. But at least we could understand it. What we can't fathom, and what the public always faults the Legislature for, is this do-nothing runaround that never says "no" but never says "yes" either.

Its estimated cost is $909 million. Half is to come from federal tax dollars. The other half is to be divided among state tax dollars and property taxes raised by Ramsey and Hennepin counties.

It's our hard-earned money, and it's a fair bit of it. We understand the concerns of those who aren't sold on rail or who openly oppose the project. Many fiscal conservatives are in this camp. We believe that they fail to acknowledge the equally enormous expense of roads and bridges. We support both. For that reason, we supported the DFL transportation bill that raised new money for roads, bridges and transit.

Pawlenty originally put $70 million for the project in his capital projects bill. But when the Legislature presented him with a bill that he felt was too costly, one of the vetoed items was the Central Corridor appropriation. He has said the project can be revived if there is an agreement on the separate issue of how to deal with an expected shortfall in the general fund budget.

On his radio show Friday, he called Central Corridor "the nearly $1 billion light-rail project between Minneapolis and St. Paul. It's $100 million a mile, I think $20,000 a foot.'' We note the new I-35W bridge is costing $234 million to carry cars 1,200 feet over water and banks of the Mississippi. By the gov's accounting, that comes out to $195,000 a foot.

Pawlenty said the debate over routing the rail line through the University of Minnesota campus is a problem. Indeed it is — but he offered no help on that front. He is in his sixth year in office but we do not recall him getting behind this project or fighting it. Friday was no exception. "I said I'm not opposed to it, necessarily,'' he said.

The project won't be built without federal funding. To remain in the pipeline, Peter Bell wants to submit preliminary engineering reports to the U.S. Department of Transportation this fall. So an agreement on state money is needed this session — by May 19. An agreement with the university will also have to come, although not quite as quickly. We have confidence that Bell and U officials will get that done.

On Friday, University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks urged Pawlenty to approve the $70 million Central Corridor item — a signal that the university wants the train. U vice president Kathleen O'Brien said Friday that "dozens of people are working to figure how to make it work.'' Bell was working equally hard to respond to the university's routing concerns, a spokesman said.

"This is zero hour,'' said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, a stalwart Central Corridor champion. She's right. We understand and respect the governor's right to negotiate. We don't agree with everything Hausman and DFL leaders want. But if everyone favors it — or at least, no one opposes it — the Central Corridor should not be the last bargaining chip of the 2008 legislative session.

The University administration has taken major steps to sabotage the project if it does not use the so-called Northern route. Calling for support while lobbying against the project is not the openness and transparency publicly espoused by OurLeader.

Pay attention to what they do, not what they say.

May 9, 2008

NIH Funding - Some Truthiness in Order?

From the Daily

Despite the research expansion, officials acknowledged federal funding has been hard to come by.

"There's no question there's not as much money as there used to be," Cerra said.

With new facilities, "it will be much easier (to obtain funding) than it was two months ago," he [Cerra] said.

Bruininks said "relatively flat" funding from the National Institutes of Health is "barely keeping pace with inflation."

From the Scientist:

Every NIH-funded biologist can rattle off the story of the agency's budgetary rise and fall over the last 15 years. In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton pledged to double the NIH budget within five years. He did, and the agency's R&D budget jumped from $13 billion in 1998 to $26 billion in 2003 - triggering a flood of scientists into the field, a burst of building activity at institutions, and the expectation that any well-respected scientist with a reasonable idea could receive federal funding.

That all ended in 2003, when the country was consumed by terrorism, a budget deficit, and a war.

So in 2003, NIH's R&D budget began to, as many now say, flatline: tracking inflation and inching from $26.4 billion in 2003, to $27.2 billion in 2004, and $27.9 billion in 2005. The situation has not changed much since then: For fiscal year 2009, President George W. Bush requested $29.5 billion.

The trouble is, science doesn't shift as quickly as political focus does, and NIH grant applications continued to pour in, even when the amount of available money slowed to a trickle.

In 1999, scientists submitted 8,957 applications for R01 grants classified as type 1, or new submissions (these figures include only original applications, not resubmissions). The agency awarded 1,761 applications, for a success rate of 19.7%.

By 2005, the number of applications rose to 10,605, and only 970 were approved. That means only 9.1% were successful, and 9,635 were rejected - more than the total number of submissions only six years earlier.

For type 2 grant applications, which request to continue an already-awarded R01 grant, the numbers tell the same story.

In 1999, 3,214 funded scientists requested renewals; 1,772 received them, for a success rate of more than 55%.

By 2005, 3,896 needed renewals of their grants, but only 1,262 requests were awarded; the success rate had fallen below 33%. So among nearly 4,000 scientists who were working off NIH funds in 2005, more than 2,600 lost that support.

In 2007, more than 4,100 scientists were denied renewals of their R01s.

And yes this has happened at Minnesota. We all know colleagues who have fallen off the NIH wagon. Very good scientists. So don't pretend, Frank, that with these new facilities it is going to be "much easier" to obtain funding.

In your dreams...

May 8, 2008

University invests large sum in research sites

From the Daily:

The state is funding 75 percent of the $292 million facilities and infrastructure costs for four new research sites. The University is responsible for the other 25 percent, or $73 million

Frank Cerra, senior vice president of health sciences, said each facility should generate $20 million to $25 million in new project money.

More than $300 million of University research funding - roughly half of all current sponsored funding - feeds the biomedical science departments, University President Bob Bruininks said.

Minnesota has more than 500 biomedical-related businesses, employing around 250,000 people, University officials said.

Each facility will create roughly 1,000 new jobs, Cerra said, and will hopefully attract major investment companies to help develop the area.

"In the next five to seven years, there will probably be 5,000 to 7,000 new jobs over in that area, just from these kinds of investments," he said.

Faculty salaries, which aren't included in the $292 million, will be paid with multiple funds, Cerra said, including cost reductions, internal reallocations and support from partner organizations.

The University is competing with schools like Berkeley, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Wisconsin and Michigan, he [Cerra] said.

Despite the research expansion, officials acknowledged federal funding has been hard to come by.

"There's no question there's not as much money as there used to be," Cerra said.

With new facilities, "it will be much easier (to obtain funding) than it was two months ago," he [Cerra] said.

Bruininks said "relatively flat" funding from the National Institutes of Health is "barely keeping pace with inflation."

What do the numbers say?

The University lagged in federal research expenditures behind schools like Michigan and Wisconsin, according to 2006 data from the Center for Measuring University Performance.

It's also ranked below the same schools in biological sciences, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The University's Medical School is also ranked lower than Ohio State University and Wisconsin by the same rankings.

In their goal to become a top three research institution, University officials have used the Center for Measuring University Performance's rankings as a benchmark.

According to 2007 rankings, the University was in the second tier of top public-research universities - in the top 13 overall.

Compared to 2006, the University remained relatively stagnant in rankings, but the number of peer schools in the same tier rose from three to five.

"Faculty salaries, which aren't included in the $292 million, will be paid with multiple funds, Cerra said, including cost reductions, internal reallocations and support from partner organizations."

Uh, huh...

And how much did the acquisition of Jacko and Sainfort cost? And you are going to fill four buildings with that caliber of faculty and fund it with cost reductions and internal reallocations and..?

In your dreams, Frank.

Let's see, would that be from the paper clip fund?

Maybe we could stop buying shredders and do it by hand?

Internal reallocation? Why don't we just do away with the English department, the philosophy department, art history... You know, any of those disciplines that don't bring in research m-o-n-e-y.

"For an individual, $1 million is frequently a starting point for salary and start-up money. If you're doing research with a group, it could be $10 million, $15 million, up to $25 million. That's the nature of the marketplace." Frank Cerra

A million here, 25 million there... Pretty soon we are talking about real money.

(Apparently Frank believes in the American method: Shoot first and ask questions later.)

May 7, 2008

U of MN vice president among finalists for top job at UW-Madison

From the Pioneer Press:

The sole internal candidate, Dr. Gary Sandefur, has been dean of the College of Letters and Sciences since 2004.

The other candidates include Dr. Biddy Martin, provost of Cornell University in New York; Dr. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research at the University of Minnesota; and Dr. Rebecca Blank, the former dean at the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

Mulcahy is still well-known on campus, where he spent 20 years of his career. He was associate vice chancellor for research policy from 2002 to 2005 before he left for the Minnesota job. He joined the human oncology faculty in 1985 and served as associate dean for biological sciences from 1996 to 2002.

Tuition must be reasonable

From the Rainy Lake Daily Journal

May 6, 2008 - 1:07pm — Journal Staff

Tuition and fees at the U would jump 9.5 percent under a threat by university officials. They say that if Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s budget proposal becomes reality, tuition and fees will increase from the 7.5 percent originally planned to 9.5 percent. Pawlenty’s proposal calls for a cut of $27.3 million to the school’s budget.

We’re disappointed that the U would even propose the 7 percent increase, let alone add another 2 percent along with a threat.

Last year, the U got a 17 percent increase in funding from the state and yet tuition increased by 7 percent.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, a university vice present and chief financial officer said the tuition increases would allow U to “make investments? and “keep the university's momentum moving forward.?

He pointed at Pawlenty’s plan to cut 27.3 million from the U budget, saying, if that happens, something’s gotta give and that’s going to be tuition.

Reasonable tuition increases are understandable. The cost of everything, even education, rises each year. But the level of increases proposed by the U — especially in light of the fact that last year’s allotment, which was much higher than the rate of inflation.

... at the same time, a diploma from the University of Minnesota must remain attainable to most of the state’s kids. That won’t be the case if tuition and fees continue to rise at the rate proposed for the 2008-09 school year and enacted last year.

Why don't we make investments in our students, Pfutz? Which is more important, being one of the third best research universities on the planet or educating the citizens of the state?

Forward momentum?

"Is this a time to be talking about getting into the top three? When units cannot maintain their research capacity, how can they get to the top three? There is little to suggest that the University is on an upward trajectory."

Senate Research Committee, October 8, 2007

Ambitious aspirations, indeed....

May 6, 2008

About Those Ambitious Aspirations, So We Have 45% Adjuncts?

The Daily Reports This Disturbing News


But didn't OurLeader just say (yesterday's Daily):

Bruininks said students feel the impact of the top-three initiative in the sense that it's a "different approach for education."

"In nearly all of our fields, I think students benefit from learning from faculty members who are on the cutting edge of their fields," he said. "It makes the education we provide distinctive and very special."

Note: I am not being critical of adjuncts, having done time as a "non-tenure track" faculty member.

The criticism is directed at OurLeader who on one hand argues that a research oriented faculty will be better teachers.

But on the other hand, the reward for being a good researcher is minimization of teaching duties - the slack being picked up by adjuncts.

You can't have it both ways, Bob.

May 3, 2008

Surprise, Surprise, Tuition Blackmail (ten percent increase?) and An Early Retirement Incentive

The governor and the state legislature are scheduled to discuss the state budget in St. Paul this weekend.

Naturally, OurLeader has to make dire threats about what will happen if he doesn't get his way, and how he will, ever so reluctantly, have to raise tuition.

At what point are the legislature and the governor going to tire of this game and tell him that if he does, once again, take it out on the students, that there will be dire consequences?



As reported by MPR:

Nearly 10 percent tuition hike possible at U of M next fall

St. Paul, Minn. — The University of Minnesota's tuition increase would approach double digits next fall if the state budget is adopted with the governor's recommended cuts.

Tuition would go up 9.5 percent under one of three scenarios released today in President Robert Bruininks university budget proposal. The other two scenarios maintain the tuition increase of 7.5 percent--which is the number mapped out a year ago after the legislative budget session.

"The bulk of the solution to a $27 million cut will come through internal budget cuts at the university and delaying investments that we had hoped to make in a variety of academic programs--we will have to trim those back." Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter says.

The university has a program in place to reduce the tuition increase by two percent for middle income students. Pfutzenreuter notes the program probably wouldn't apply if the university had to absorb the $27 million reduction.

The House and Senate are considering lesser cuts to the university of $5 million to $10 million. Under those scenarios, Bruininks' budget would not add to the scheduled 7.5 percent tuition hike. However it would require internal cuts and possibly job reductions.

"We were...hoping to make investments in new honors programs and writing initiatives and hiring a new chair in genetics and cell biology, making investments in medical devices and nanotechnology and a new center for science technology," Pfutzenreuter said.

In addition to the budget cuts, the university is also proposing an early retirement incentive program for faculty and staff. It's projected that six percent of staff take the retirement option. If so, the university could save as much as $50-million.

The retirement incentive is the university's effort to head off what Pfutzenreuter believes will be additional state budget problems down the road.

Great, Pfutz. We are going to hire how many new faculty to fill the new biomedical research buildings? And we are going to go out and hire big guns (like Jacko and Sainfort) with what? If we need to get six percent of the staff to retire in order to make it through this recession, does this much hyped expansion make sense?

But then, under the circumstances, "ambitious aspirations to be one of the top three research universities in the world [sic]" doesn't make any sense either.

Long past time to get real.

Added later:

And now the Strib of the red telephone chimes in.
The word threatening seems an entirely appropriate description of OurLeader's behavior, although I prefer blackmail.

U now is considering a 9.5% tuition increase

The University of Minnesota is threatening to add 2 percentage points if the Legislature approves Gov. Pawlenty's request for $27.3 million in budget cuts. The cost for many students may top $10,000 for the first time.

"If we get to $27 million, we'll do some more cutting, but we're going to have to turn to tuition," said Richard Pfutzenreuter, a university vice president and chief financial officer. "It's a pretty simple message."

Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung was disappointed with the U's stance.

"Last year, the University of Minnesota received a 17 percent increase in funding from the state," McClung said. "Even with that large increase, the U raised tuition by 7 percent -- and now they're talking about another 7.5 or 9.5 percent increase. We are very disappointed that the U can't hold tuition increases to a reasonable level when they are receiving funding increases that are several times the rate of inflation."

May 2, 2008

The Student Loan Bubble

Or, Is Anyone in the U of M Administration Listening?


According to Kiplinger, we have the highest average student loan debt of any (public) school in the BigTen:

Average Debt at Graduation

Big Ten Public Universities

Illinois $15,413

Ohio State $18,130

Indiana $19,756

Iowa $20,234

Purdue $20,102

Wisconsin $20,282

Michigan State $22,147

Penn State $23,500

Michigan $23,353

Minnesota $24,995

Marie Reilly has an excellent commentary on MoneyLaw about student loans. Perhaps people in high places - Bob, Tom - should start thinking about this?

Andrew Gillen of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity thinks the next US financial crisis will be the popping of the student loan bubble. In a recent report, Gillen draws parallels between the conditions leading up to the current housing crisis and those in the market for higher ed.

Here's his argument: To expand access to higher education, government has expanded students' access to financial aid, particularly through subsidized loans. Consumer subsidies expand demand. Profit maximizing suppliers normally expand production to respond to increased demand. In the case of higher ed, subsidies do not work that way.

Universities are not profit maximizers. Rather they maximize prestige. Expanding production and supply (adding more students) actually decreases prestige.

Rather than add more students, universities hold enrollment constant, raise tuition, and use additional tuition revenue (care of federal subsidy) to build prestige.

Consumers can benefit even if output does not increase if product quality increases. But, more prestige for a university is not necessarily coincident with a better education for students.

Gillen asserts that universities are not using expanded revenue to improve the education they deliver to students. They can charge higher tuition without rendering a higher quality because students cannot analyze tuition cost against benefit. They tend to equate high tuition with high educational value, a correlation that is, according to Gillen, dubious.

Gillen's analogy to the housing bubble is compelling: Low interest rates and innovation in capital markets may have fueled increase in demand for housing, rising home prices, and the spread of subprime mortgage products.

Perhaps government intervention is better directed at stimulating greater accountability for colleges and universities on the facts that matter to students' cost benefit analysis.
Consumers armed with comparative information about the quality of education a university offers, including the impact of a particular degree on students' financial prospects, may provide the discipline universities currently lack.

As Mr. Spock would say, "Interesting..."

May 1, 2008

Call Me...Irresponsible

Gov. 'willing to accept' central corridor, with conditions

From the Daily:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty opened the door Wednesday for lawmakers to move forward in funding the Central Corridor this session, but some lawmakers say the University is getting in the way.

While legislators had asked the governor to outline his position, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL- St. Paul, said the condition relating to the University is one the Legislature has no way of fixing. It exists solely between the University and the Metropolitan Council, she said.

If the issue goes unresolved, it could lead to the end of the Central Corridor, at least in this session.

Calling the University-related condition "problematic," Hausman said the school is a "big, big obstacle" in the project's path and its Northern Alignment position the "biggest threat" to the future of the whole project.

In its part, the University maintains Northern Alignment is the best way to pursue the Central Corridor, University spokesman Mark Cassutt said in an e-mailed statement.

"This is a billion-dollar public investment that will have a lasting impact on our region and campus," he said. "It'd be irresponsible to not do it right."