Monday Minute, November 8, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

The mid-term elections have brought, as we all know, a substantial shift not only in the US House of Representatives, but also in our own state legislature. At a Twin Cities Deans' meeting this afternoon, Provost Tom Sullivan said that the University is now modeling possible scenarios of 5, 10, and 15 percent cuts if the legislature tries to address the state's budget deficit without revenue increases. While the ultimate winner of the governor's race will affect this, one way or the other, it suggests that the state's disinvestment in higher education over the last few decades will continue and possibly accelerate in the next few years.

In response to a previous request by the University, the college has preliminarily modeled cuts of 3 and 5 percent, which we believe we could handle through a combination of reserves and expected tuition increases. Anything more than 5 percent, however, and we will once again face a shortfall in our budget. After four years of cuts in this college, we have long ago eliminated any "fat" in our operations, and it seems self-defeating to cut the revenue-generating activities of our programs, departments, and centers.

That leaves us little choice but to increase revenues. In that context, the identification of possible new revenue sources or ideas as part of our strategic planning becomes even more critical to our future success. At the same time, we will have to look at how far we can raise graduate tuition, over which we have control, as a way of compensating for cuts while remaining competitive with our peers.

We will discuss these and other options with you when we know our budget situation more precisely. But I wanted you to know that I remain committed to the quality of our programs and centers. If, however, the political climate in this country has turned away from government spending on public goods and toward private funding of personal benefits, then we need to respond accordingly, whatever misgivings we may have.