February 23, 2010

Who will we be in 2020?

What will the world be like in 2020 that will effect the ways in which we teach and do research? I would like you to send me ( jquam@umn.edu ) ideas of pieces of data/statistics that will help us to understand what our world will be like in ten years. I will compile your ideas and put them on the blog. Here are a couple to start us out

By 2020, there will be more people in MN 65 years and older than children in elementary, middle, and high school put together.

This year, 1000 of the 15,000 college applications to Tufts included a YouTube video as a part of the application.

Currently, there are over 70 different languages and dialects spoken in the St. Paul public schools.

The fastest growing part of the population using computers is 3 - 5 year olds.

August 14, 2009


This morning the news is full of ideas about textbooks. Textbooks can now be downloaded to your iphone and in the chronicle this morning: The textbook publisher Cengage Learning will begin renting college textbooks to students in December for 40 to 70 percent of what buying the volumes would cost. "Students who choose the rental option will have immediate access to the first chapter of the book in e-book format and will also have a choice of shipping options," the company said. "Once the rental term is complete, students can either choose to print a return label from CengageBrain.com and ship the textbook back, or purchase the title."

February 24, 2009

Three year undergraduate degrees ?

iIn the Chronicle today, there is an article about a three year undergraduate degree which is pretty much accomplished by taking more credits each semester and using summers for internships, etc. Should we try it?

"If four years’ tuition is too expensive, how about three? The economic downturn is reviving an idea that colleges have experimented with for years, with limited success.

Hartwick College, in Oneonta, N.Y., today became the latest college to announce a three-year bachelor’s degree, which it says will reduce costs for students and their families by 25 percent, or more than $40,000. Hartwick’s optional three-year program, which formalizes an approach some students already pursue individually, will begin this fall, allowing both current and new students to enroll.

Three-year degrees have come and gone, but the concept got a strong endorsement in a speech this month by Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican who is a former secretary of education.

Although designed to cut costs, the Hartwick program will also maintain its “rich educational experience,” the college said in a news release. Students who participate will take 40 rather than 30 credits a year, keeping their summers free for study abroad, internships, or employment. Service learning, athletics, and other activities will still be accessible to three-year students, according to Meg Nowak, Hartwick’s vice president for student life.

Students must finish high school with at least a 3.0 grade-point average to qualify for the “accelerated route to graduation,” which includes priority course registration and special academic advising. But some majors, including anthropology, biochemistry, German, and music, are not taking part."

January 12, 2009

Value of Early Childhood Education

Read Nora Slawik's article about the importance of investing in early childhood learners:

December 11, 2008


Bill - thanks for pointing me to Margaret Soltan - It is an interesting debate as to whether or not endowments should be considered cash reserves or used for operating expenses. I liked this part of the interview:

Institutions should be going through programs, eliminating some, but building others — and spending their endowments to make institutions more creative. Operating on the assumption that endowment growth or losses matter “is a tragedy that makes everyone risk averse,? he said.

I am wondering what criteria we would use in our college to determine which programs should be strengthened and which should be eliminated. The Governing Council may take up this issue at the next meeting.

December 10, 2008

Even Harvard is cutting back!

I read this in the Chronicle this morning:
Facing projections of a 30-percent drop in its endowment, Harvard will freeze salaries for faculty members and nonunion staff members, suspend nearly all searches for tenure-track and tenured professors, and place restrictions on hiring instructional faculty members, The Harvard Crimson reported today.

The announcement, which comes a week after Harvard revealed that its endowment had lost at least $8-billion since June 30, was sent to department heads in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences yesterday and will be the subject of a faculty meeting today, the newspaper said.

it would, of course, be great to have a large enough endowment that one could actually lose $8 billion! Some of the comments about the article suggest that the great minds at Harvard have not managed their endowments very well.

November 24, 2008

Should we do more courses online?

What do you think about MNSCU's plan to do more online courses? Is that a path we should take? Does it really save money?

In hopes of saving tax dollars and reaching more students, state leaders in Minnesota say they plan to offer a substantially higher percentage of their courses online in the next seven years.

Tim Pawlenty, the state’s governor, and David Olson, the chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, held a series of press events today announcing their intention to offer 25 percent of college credits online by 2015.

Only about 9 percent of course credits delivered during the past academic year were received through online education.

Student enrollments are up slightly

it is unclear what effects the economy will have on our enrollments which are up slightly more than we predicted. In past years when there was an economic downturn, students came back to school in record numbers because they could not find jobs - particularly at the graduate level.

In the Chronicle, there are articles today suggesting that parents can not afford to send their kids away to school.
" Fifty-seven percent of the 2,500 high-school seniors surveyed this fall by a scholarship-search group called MeritAid said they were considering less-expensive, less-selective colleges. The survey, which was sent to students who had signed on to the company's college and scholarship-matching Web sites, found that 14 percent of the students had shifted their attention from four-year to two-year colleges."

One strategy that our College may need to use is to attract more transfer students from two year colleges.

November 17, 2008

Oquama ?

I received many thoughtful comments about the Assembly talk on Friday. Most saying that they were sorry we were in such horrible financial shape but optimistic that we can get ourselves out of this and move on to do good work. My favorite comment was someone who referred to me as "Oquama" - thnaks. The issue of morale that Mary Jo Kane brought up is a difficult one. How can we improve morale?

November 11, 2008

President issues a "hiring pause"

Yesterday, the President issued the following message about a "hiring pause" (see below). As a result of this action, we will need to review carefully all hiring in the College. Searches that are in progress will be reviewed as well but I expect that most of them will move forward.


For the past several months, the University has been planning for potential changes in our overall revenue sources in light of global, national, and state economic conditions. I recently issued a statement to the University community underscoring the challenges we face, but also emphasizing the deliberate and responsible approach we’ve taken to make the case that the University of Minnesota should see increased investment in these difficult times. So while it is critical that we continue to make the best case we can for investment in the University, we must also seize every opportunity to maximize existing resources and dedicate them in the best ways to improve the quality, productivity and impact of the University.

In order to keep the University strong and not lose the gains we’ve made in recent years, we must be entrepreneurial about our work and look for ways to reduce cost and improve productivity without sacrificing excellence. If we are to retain and support our talented workforce, maintain access and affordability for students, and strengthen our quality and competitiveness, we must act decisively—now—to save money where we can.

In my recent memo concerning the mandatory approval of hires replacing Retirement Incentive Option Program (“RIO?) participants, I pointed out the critical necessity for all of us as University leaders to seize opportunities for the University to gain financially from retirements in order to reduce the level of non-voluntary workforce reductions during this time of challenging economic conditions. I also challenged us as a team to consider ways to reorganize work in all offices and units to take maximum advantage of potential gains to be realized through the RIO program results, not only as a means to avoid significant layoffs should our budget situation worsen, but also as a way to better align our workforce and streamline our operations.

Consistent with my earlier memo, I am now implementing a hiring pause University-wide to leverage the normal attrition of employees in each of your units. This will apply to both academic and administrative positions. I use the term pause intentionally. At this time, this is a temporary action, taken in the face of financial uncertainty that will provide the information required to assess how to maintain our exceptional faculty and staff while working thoughtfully to reduce our total expenses. This tool is only one of many you must consider in light of the economic situation. My commitment to our workforce – the key to our strength as a university – is a non-negotiable principle as we move steadily through these choppy waters.

To that end, I expect you to discuss your specific plans for those positions in your reporting line and units that are open, or may become open in the next few months, due to RIO and other normal attrition. These plans must be discussed with and approved by the executive to whom you report. You should include information on the role and importance of the position, including whether the position is essential to operations such as a critical health and safety function or ensuring that the University meets its academic and fiduciary responsibilities, and how the position fits in your overall strategic objectives. Absent approval for a hire, I ask you to delay the hiring and urge you to consider other strategies for the performance of the work. I have asked Vice President Carol Carrier to regularly report to me on the progress of the implementation of this pause. For those of you who have academic or administrative units reporting to you, I expect you to put in place mechanisms for reviewing and monitoring hiring.

We will learn more about the state’s revenue forecast in early December. Most sources are projecting a dramatic decline in state revenues. We anticipate additional clarity on the University’s financial support from the State of Minnesota when the Governor announces his recommendations on state spending in mid to late January 2009. This hiring pause will allow us to work together and plan for our workforce needs, as we work to best deploy our resources to serve our students, advance research, and serve the state of Minnesota.

Please communicate this information to your direct reports and others in your units as appropriate. Your leadership is most appreciated, as are your continued efforts on behalf of the University of Minnesota.

Robert H. Bruininks
University of Minnesota
phone: (612) 626-1616
fax: (612) 625-3875