Monday Minute: February 2, 2009

tom-fisher.jpgDear Colleagues,

Over the last two-plus years, I have written a longer letter to you every other month. Now, with the country's economic turmoil providing a lot of unsettling news, I plan to write to you more often, and more briefly, about what I know is happening and what we might think about doing in response. I will aim to send an update on Monday of every week, by e-mail and via the college's blog, CDes MEMO.

This week, let me fill you in on the impact of $20 million "unallotment" that the state will remove from the funding it gives the University this current fiscal year. Our college's contribution to this cut is $210,000, or a little more than 1 percent of the total. That amount was calculated based on the amount of reserves we have and the amount of state funding we receive. Since this college has relatively small amounts of both, the reduction to our current budget is a relatively small percentage of the whole.

We have begun budget meetings with all of the units in the college. While the meetings will mainly focus on next year's budget, we will also look at unallocated balances in the current year and decide how to come up with the $210,000 that we owe the University. This may mean postponing some actions and cutting back on others, but we should be able to meet this obligation without too much pain. The real challenge will be meeting the cuts just announced by the Governor on Jan. 27, but more about that next week.

In the meantime, I welcome your comments. Please respond on the blog, using the comment feature; send me an e-mail; and attend the college meetings on February 13.



Dean Fisher,

What kind of long term impact is the State's continuing budget crisis going to have on higher ed in general and design schools specifically (CDes in this case)? My sense is that we're right at the cusp or slightly towards the middle of a major transformation in how we think of state and governmental budgets. Do you see Cdes' role or concept of itself changing in order to adapt to the new economic realities?

Dear Bernt,

You raise a very good question. I think you are right that public higher education is at a transition point, with ever-decreasing state support and an ever-increasing demand for the education, research, and outreach we provide. Some universities (Cornell, Michigan) mix private and public colleges, while others (Case Western, Johns Hopkins) have shrunk or eliminated unprofitable colleges and grown the most profitable ones. I don't know if Minnesota will pursue those paths or possibly others, but I do know that our college has so many fields so central to the region's economy that we will not only survive this transition, but will thrive in the future, whatever form that takes.