Report shows how CLA spends tuition

Lowered state funding has increased the ‘tuition burden’ for colleges to pay their bills.

by Rebecca Harrington

University of Minnesota students pay more than $13,500 a year in tuition and fees, but they may not know what happens to that money.

The College of Liberal Arts posted a report on its blog last week that painted a picture of where its $250 million operating budget comes from and where it goes.

Overwhelmingly, the money comes from tuition and fees — 75 percent. With nearly 16,000 undergraduate and graduate students, CLA will collect $177 million from tuition and fees in fiscal year 2013.

The next biggest contributor is state funding, which is 19 percent of the college’s revenue. Although it amounts to $45 million this year, the report mentions that it has decreased considerably in the last few years.

Tuition made up 58 percent of revenue in 2008, while state funding accounted for 32 percent, according to CLA finance director Brent Gustafson. The two have since swapped.

Mostafa Kaveh, the associate dean for research and planning in the College of Science and Engineering, said the proportion of tuition and state funding was about the same just a few years ago.

“The state part of the funding for our colleges — both CLA and other colleges — for the most part, have gone down significantly,” Kaveh said. “And of course, the tuition burden has gone up.”

In both CSE and CLA, more than half of the budget pays the salaries of faculty and staff in the college. Kaveh said CSE paid nearly $17 million for teaching assistants alone in 2012.

When the University receives funding from the state, it gives it all to the colleges and then the colleges pay it back for different spaces and services.

Cost pools are the second largest chunk of both colleges’ budgets. These are incidental costs the University needs for day-to-day essentials like Internet, heat and libraries.

Each pool has a different way of calculating how much the colleges have to pay.

To determine the amount a college pays for heat, for example, the administration looks at square footage. But some cost pools depend on how many faculty members, staff and students a college has, so CLA has to pay more for those because it’s the largest college.

Kaveh said CSE has to pay more for lab space required for teaching and research.

“When you’re teaching students chemistry, they have to do chemistry labs and engineering labs,” he said. “Those are expensive enterprises.”

But research also draws more funding for CSE. Kaveh said they get more external research funding than CLA, which helps pay for research lab space.

Gustafson said that the colleges don’t control the amount of state funding they receive or how much they have to pay for cost pools — the University’s central administration decides that.

Since colleges classify expenses differently and have different funding sources and costs, Kaveh said it’s “tricky” to compare them.

CLA has seen less money coming in than they need to operate, Gustafson said in the report, mainly because of changes in tuition and state funding.

“[This] will necessitate difficult decisions within the college,” he wrote, “about how to better align revenues and expenses in the future.”