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January 30, 2007

President Bruininks on Almanac last Friday

If you didn't get a chance to watch President Bruininks on Almanac last Friday, discussing U funding, research, athletics and more, it's available to stream online here.

January 25, 2007

University considers pulling out of Wisconsin reciprocity agreement

The University of Minnesota is threatening to pull out of a tuition reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin unless its students from Wisconsin start paying between $1,200 and $2,700 more a year
according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Wisconsin has rejected the proposal, but the University of Minnesota is pushing back.

"We would like to reach agreement within the existing agreement," said Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota. "That's the preferable outcome. But I don't want to rule other things out."

Under a decades-old agreement between the states, a Wisconsin student attending a public college or university in Minnesota pays the tuition rate of a comparable campus in Wisconsin. The same home-state formula applies for a Minnesota student enrolled in a college or university in Wisconsin.

While the tuition rates for the states' two-year colleges are comparable, there are growing gaps at many of the four-year universities, with Minnesota students paying much more than their Wisconsin counterparts.

Wisconsin residents attending the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, pay $8,219 a year, $1,191 less than the tuition paid by Minnesota residents. On the University of Minnesota, Morris, campus, Wisconsin residents pay $7,592, $2,720 less than Minnesotans.

Meanwhile, Minnesota residents pay $8,314 to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison - $1,588 more than Wisconsin students. At UW-Milwaukee, Minnesotans pay $8,363, $1,737 more.

Wisconsin reimburses Minnesota for the difference. In 2005, it paid Minnesota nearly $7 million to close the gap. But under the reciprocity agreement, the reimbursement money goes into the state's bank account, not back into the universities.

As the University of Minnesota sees it, the agreement is unfair.

"It's an equity issue," Swan said. "From the perspective of Minnesota taxpayers, it seems like Wisconsin residents should be paying the same amount as their own sons and daughters are required to pay."

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education, known as OHE, manages the reciprocity agreement for Minnesota. In 2004, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks sent a letter to the office demanding change.

Bruininks asked that Minnesota and Wisconsin students be required to pay whichever tuition rate was higher, the one charged by the campus they were attending or the one charged by the comparable campus in their home state.

OHE and Wisconsin's Higher Educational Aids Board discussed the proposal over the last couple of years, with both sides expressing interest, according to Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota office.

But when Heegaard sent the Wisconsin board a letter in December officially requesting the change, the board balked.

"Making sure that college education remains affordable for students is a priority for Wisconsin," the Higher Educational Aids Board's executive secretary, Connie Hutchison, said in a letter sent to Heegaard on Jan. 5. "To ensure the continued affordability of higher education for our students we want to keep the current reciprocity tuition practices rather than moving to a higher-of-the-two tuition rate agreement."

Under the proposal, Wisconsin students attending any of the University of Minnesota campuses would have to start paying Minnesota tuition starting in fall 2007. None of the other Minnesota colleges and universities would be affected.

According to projections from Minnesota's Office of Higher Education, the reimbursement that Wisconsin pays to Minnesota would be eliminated by 2010. At that point, Minnesota would likely start making reimbursement payments to Wisconsin, which would be deposited in this state's bank account.

Hutchison said in an interview Tuesday that her office opposed the proposal because Gov. Jim Doyle has made keeping tuition down for Wisconsin residents a priority for this year. She said she did not remember expressing interest in a change in previous years, and that she did not have access to notes that would confirm that.

"We like the way this is working now," Hutchison said of the tuition pact.

But Swan said the University of Minnesota was exploring the possibility of withdrawing from the reciprocity agreement and creating an agreement of its own with Wisconsin if it doesn't get what it wants.

"We would make adjustments that would get us the results that we want," he said.

The two sides said they would start negotiations in the coming weeks.

National Student Exchange: broaden horizons without leaving the country

Most students want to spend a part of their undergraduate career studying in and learning about a different culture. They may be unaware that learning abroad is not their only option.

From today's Daily:

Communications senior Katie Barten spent last semester living on a tropical island and relaxing on the beach between her classes at the University of the Virgin Islands at St. Thomas.

For Barten, a New Prague, Minn. native, the National Student Exchange program was her opportunity to broaden her "horizons" and spend some time away.

The program, which offers students who have completed 20 college credits and have a minimum 2.5 grade point average the opportunity to study at one of 200 participating colleges in the United States and several of its territories, including Canada, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

I just have to point out here that Canada is not a territory of the U.S.

National Student Exchange coordinator David Holliday said many students may not realize they can experience language and culture immersion without ever leaving the U.S.

"NSE is the domestic equivalent to study abroad," he said. "Many students go to a different climate or bioregion to be exposed to something that's not here in Minnesota."

Family social science junior Sinying Lee studied at the University of Hawaii at Hilo last fall because she was tired of school, bored with the environment and wanted to live away from her home in St. Paul.

"Being able to live there, versus vacation, you really do see a different side of the local people," she said. "You understand the culture and why the Hawaiians are so connected to the earth."

The 5 most popular destinations for NSE students are:
1. Hawaii
2. California
3. New York
4. Florida
5. Arizona

January 23, 2007

Students propose extra study days before exams

The Minnesota Student Association will be considering a proposed resolution supporting two extra study days each semester to allow students to prepare for their final exams.

From the Minnesota Daily:

As the University continues its transformation toward being a top-three public research university, it's important to realize how small steps in the right direction can help affect the entire outcome. Although a prestigious institution should be rigorous, there are small changes that the University of Minnesota administration could make to help students cope with the pressures of attending a competitive university. A primary example of one of these small changes is inserting two weekday study days before finals into the academic calendar.

Over the past five years, University tuition has increased drastically, making it almost essential for students to find part-time jobs to pay for the rising costs. Taking on part-time employment steals away needed study time and causes students more stress. In addition, many students are highly involved in athletics, on-campus clubs or even volunteering - trying to round out a résumé so the competitive job hunt can be a little easier. All of these activities can really eat away a student's time and drive.

And, let's not forget how important time is during finals - when jamming regular work hours, extracurricular activities and final exams, worth sometimes more than 50 percent of the class grade, can really take a toll on already stressed-out students.

As the University strives for excellence and each incoming freshmen class' scores increase, exams are going to become more difficult than ever. This added two-day break would create the needed ingredient to allow students to do their very best. This measure can truly help students cope with the added stress of finals and reach their full potential - to show their true ability and why the University decided to admit them in the first place.

January 22, 2007

Star Tribune series on college men and gambling

Yesterday's Minneapolis Star Tribune had an interesting cover story on young college men playing poker professionally, some while they continue their studies, and some in place of their studies.

Poker is red hot on college campuses these days. A small number of students have made it a full-time job, turning what is a game for most into a profession where tens of thousands of dollars can come and go in a single night.

Today's college students are among the first to grow up with gambling so accessible. Credit is easily available. Casinos, once relegated to Las Vegas and Atlantic City, are now scattered across 37 states. Poker is a regular feature on cable TV.

Going to the casino has become a rite of passage for Minnesota students as they turn 18. Freshmen play poker in dorm rooms, fraternities and bars host Texas Hold 'Em tournaments, and students hold sports betting pools and use wireless Internet connections to play anytime, anywhere.

"I make a joke that ... the second-best gambling environment in America is the college dorm," said Ken Winters, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has studied youth addictions, including gambling. "You've got your privacy, you've got your high-speed Internet, you have independence from a parent, you probably now have some credit card money. ... It's like a little mini casino right in your laptop. ... It's almost too easy."

College-age men, especially, have embraced the poker phenomenon.

Card-playing and Internet gambling have increased among college-age males over the past five years, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania found. About 16 percent of them played cards weekly in 2006, up from nearly 13 percent in 2005, and nearly 6 percent of them gambled online weekly, up from 2.3 percent in 2005.

Read the rest of the story--it follows several University of Minnesota men to a poker tournament at Canterbury Card Club. Here's a companion story:

The poker players sparkle like celebrities on cable TV, often sitting coolly in sunglasses while raking in their chips.

The gambling industry sells itself by marketing the kind of high-stakes wins that are routine for only a few. It's a potent lure, and one that many college students -- already high-risk takers -- pay attention to. Some marketing is aimed directly at them: "win your tuition" tournaments, fliers on campus kiosks, offers for fraternity fundraising.

It's not hard to find opportunities to gamble if you're a college student.

The start-up Sigma Pi fraternity at the University of Minnesota didn't even have a house yet when a poker website came calling last summer.

"I thought that your fraternity may be in need of some fundraising, and I might be able to help," read the e-mail from someone who works for Absolute Poker. The message offered to hold an online tournament and donate money for everyone who participated.

"To my knowledge, that was the first piece of advertising our fraternity received," fraternity treasurer Craig Bantz said.

I find it disturbing that before the mentioned fraternity had even moved into a house, an online gambling website had contacted members about setting up a tournament.

Daily calls for undergraduate representative to Board of Regents

The Board of Regents, the twelve-member volunteer body that governs the University of Minnesota, has been accepting applications for new members to fill vacancies.

One of those vacancies is for a student representative to the Board, and the review council that selects finalists to be considered for the position has selected 3 candidates: 2 law students and a graduate student.

Today's Minnesota Daily calls for greater undergraduate student representation on the Board:

his was going to be an important year for undergraduate students to take a special interest in the Board of Regents. For the first time in six years, the student spot on the board is up for grabs. The Board of Regents, the governing board of the University, always has a student spot. The "student" currently being replaced on the board is Lakeesha Ransom, who was finishing her Ph.D. in Human Resources Development and is a senior project manager at Best Buy Co. Ransom doesn't seem very representative of the student body, with a full-time job and an advanced degree, but you can hardly blame her since all regent terms, including student regents, are for six years.

The Regent Candidate Advisory Council selects finalists for regent positions, and this year they are boasting that the applicants are "more than qualified," and that this year they chose three student candidates, even though the norm is two. However, it is too bad that the final candidates do not include an undergrad.

Isn't the point of a student regent to be an actual representative of the student body? Anyone can agree that the lives and priorities greatly differ between undergraduate and graduate students.

The committee did receive applications from undergraduate students, a few of which have had experience with the board. The chairman has said the committee is looking for students who can "hold their own" in discussions with regents. Apparently, this only includes students seeking higher degrees.

But maybe not many undergraduate students applied, because they knew they would be locking themselves into a six-year position. At this point in undergraduates' lives, most don't even know what jobs they want after college, much less where they are going to live.

To generate more interest in the position, get different kinds of students to apply and achieve an undergraduate student voice on the Board of Regents, we suggest shorter student terms and a selection committee with an open mind about undergraduates.

January 19, 2007

No change in Minnesota-Wisconsin reciprocity agreement

Minnesota officials have been negotiating with their counterparts in Wisconsin over the higher education reciprocity agreement between the neighboring states.

As the agreement currently stands, Minnesota and Wisconsin residents can attend each other's public colleges and pay in-state tuition--that is, whatever they would pay at a comparable institution in their own state.

The agreement allows Wisconsin residents to attend the University of Minnesota and pay about $1200 per year less than Minnesota residents pay--a situation Minnesota officials were hoping that Wisconsin officials would agree to change.

It's not as if the money were permanently lost to Minnesota--at the end of the year, the states settle their accounts with each other. Last year, for example, Wisconsin paid Minnesota $6.5 to make up the difference between what Wisconsin residents pay and what the Minnesota in-state tuition would have cost (the payment goes directly to the State of Minnesota, not to the University).

The Pioneer Press has the full scoop:

With little leverage, Minnesota officials said Thursday they will keep talking to their colleagues to the east. But there's not much short-term hope to change what's become a big advantage for Wisconsin and a financial pain — to the tune of more than $6 million per year in lost tuition — for the U.

"We're very disappointed. We've been working on this for quite some time. We thought we were making some progress," said Susan Heegaard, a key aide to Gov. Tim Pawlenty on higher education policy.

She expects the issue to come up at the Legislature in coming weeks during higher education funding talks.

Admissions Ambassadors accepting applications

Students who want to share their enthusiasm and their experiences at the U are encouraged to apply to become Admissions Ambassadors, giving tours to prospective students and their families, helping out at Campus Preview Days, visiting high schools, participating in student panels, and taking prospective students to class.

In addition to having a positive influence on students considering attending the University of Minnesota, Admissions Ambassadors volunteers have intramural sports teams, plan social activities, and participate in Spring Jam and Homecoming activities.

Students who would like to apply to be part of this great organization can attend an information session on Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 at 6:00 p.m. in the Office of Admissions Freshmen Welcome Center, 200 Jones Hall.

Students can pick up applications at the information session or in 200 Jones Hall.

Application deadline is Friday, February 2nd, 2007. Contact 612-625-2445 or oswa0053@umn.edu with any questions.

January 18, 2007

U's efforts to speed student graduation rates see success

From today's Star Tribune:

The push to get more University of Minnesota students to finish faster is working. Graduation rates show "consistent, steady improvement," U officials said Tuesday. Yet there's a ways to go to reach the goal. The U has made changes to entice students to move faster, such as giving them free classes after 13 credits per semester.

Here are the University's current undergraduate graduate rates, and the new goals it hopes to achieve by the time the class of 2012 graduates:

Current Undergraduate Graduation Rates
4 years 40.70%
5 years 57.90%
6 years 60.80%

New Graduation Rate Goals
4 years 60%
5 years 75%
6 years 80%

January 8, 2007

Environmental Careers and Internships Fair

Students interested in careers with employers in fields related to:

* Environmental Education/Engineering/Sciences
* Environmental Policy and Management
* Conservation Biology
* Fisheries and Wildlife
* Forestry
* Horticulture
* Recreation Management or
* Water Science

should plan to attend the Environmental Internships & Career Fair on Tuesday, February 6, 2007 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the St. Paul Student Center. For more information, click here.

January 4, 2007

Legislative Network briefing

The U's Legislative Network invites parents and other friends of the U to join President Bruininks for a reception and briefing about the University's 2007 legislative requests.

Date: January 24
Time: 5:30-8 pm
Place: McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St SE

Register online at www.supporttheU.umn.edu or call Emily Johnston at 612-625-8739.

U of M Job and Internship Fair

The state's biggest student career fair, the University of Minnesota Job and Internship Fair, will be held on Monday, February 12, 2007, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Minneapolis Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. Tell your students to mark their calendars and log on to www.umjobfair.org to register for the fair and to learn which organizations are attending and to get some great preparation tips.