Who should be accountable?

University administrators shouldn’t gamble our future.

by Editorial board

As part of his biennial budget request for the University of Minnesota, President Eric Kaler introduced a $11.5 million accountability fund — money that the University is requesting from the state but will only use if it meets three of five benchmarks.

These goals include awarding at least 15,000 undergraduate degrees in 2014, increasing the amount of financial aid awarded and improving four-year graduation rates. While these are all areas in which the University should continue to improve, the accountability fund is flawed. Should the University be unable to meet these goals, it would face a $11.5 million shortfall, which would inevitably impact students and the quality of education. Programs could be cut or tuition increased to offset this loss.

While Kaler is reasonably certain that at least three of his five goals will be met, it seems like a big risk to take on behalf of students, staff and faculty for these institutional goals.

In the private sector, a portion of an executive’s pay can be put at risk with the assumption that the employee will earn the full amount upon successful completion of the institution’s goals. Outcome-based funding works well to make sure that those who are responsible for maintaining the institution or company are meeting those benchmarks.

While the fund is a good idea for the University to hold itself accountable to the state, the burden of a shortfall if the University fails to meet its goals should not be placed on students, instructors or departments. Instead, University administrators should put a portion of their salary at risk to make up part of this $11.5 million fund.

The University cannot afford to gamble our future, so administrators who make the bet should assume the risk.