President Bruininks finds his voice?
The president sits down for a frank discussion with the Editorial Board.
In his prepared University address remarks on Monday, President Bob Bruininks reiterated his view of the University of Minnesota's "new normal" financial situation and called for a "new covenant" with Minnesota, where a more stable funding stream would be met with more accountability from the University.
Early in our interview, Bruininks had strong and earnest words for budget-crafters in St. Paul: "You have arguably one of the best public research universities in the world; it is one of the most important strengths and comparative advantages of the state in the global economy, and you have to protect it."
In the face of the state's historic divestment in higher education, Bruininks argued the reaction to scale back on the University's aspiring goals was a false choice, though he flatly admitted it was realistic to give up on parts of his ambitious 2005 strategic positioning agenda in light of University budget cuts.
While plans appeared in the works, and numerous successful cuts have already been made (particularly in the past two years), it remains difficult to square such assurances with the fact that administrative costs have outpaced University budget growth overall during the whole of the president's tenure. Bruininks was a bit uneasy with our use of certain numbers, saying, "I should examine them a little more carefully; I'm not prepared to deal in the deep weeds here with you."
Thankfully, Bruininks recognized that students raise a legitimate question when they ask for a specific breakdown of where their tuition dollars actually go. "Right now, Peter Radcliffe is working on a set of data that will help that become more understandable." Radcliffe is the director of planning and analysis for the University.
[This will be very interesting data to have. I've tried - without success - to get information like this myself in the past]Despite ongoing and dramatic budget challenges, Bruininks was quite resolute that there will not be a return to "double-digit tuition increases," which he termed as "not fair, not the right thing to do."
Mark this down. When the federal subsidies are gone, this quotation will be a good one to have at the ready. Of course Bob will be gone when the big hit comes. That is part of the problem.