Regents talk center expansion, tuition increase

Last week, the Board of Regents met to discuss new construction, academic progress and President BruininksâÄô 2010-2011 budget proposal. The budget, although not officially approved, could include a 4.5 percent tuition increase over each of the next two years. An expansion to the McNamara Alumni Center was approved and awards were presented to outstanding professors. Budget The budget made requests for funding in three major areas: Faculty and staff compensation, middle income student scholarships and research enhancement. All told, the budget asks for $141.2 million from the state legislature, with $95.2 million of that total aimed at faculty and staff compensation. Bruininks said the University will do its part when it comes to funding. Tuition will increase 4.5 percent each fiscal year for 2010 and 2011 and the University will reallocate 1 percent of its current state appropriation and tuition base. Tuition increased 7.25 percent for fiscal year 2009. Current tuition and fees totals for a Minnesota resident reach nearly $11,000 per year. Bruininks called the budget request modest and realistic. Many Regents commended Bruininks on the budgetâÄôs simplicity and focus, but were still concerned about tuition increases and the possibility of making higher education out of reach for some students. The Regents will vote on the budget proposal at its October meeting on the UniversityâÄôs Duluth campus. Construction The boardâÄôs Facilities Committee reviewed and approved construction plans for an addition to the McNamara Alumni Center and construction of the UniversityâÄôs Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center. The McNamara addition would be four or five stories high and add office and event space. Groundbreaking would take place on Dec. 1, 2008, with completion scheduled for Sept. 1, 2009. Total costs are estimated at $9.7 million, about one-fifth of McNamaraâÄôs original construction costs. The UROC will be built from what is now a vacant shopping center on Plymouth Avenue in north Minneapolis . Proponents said the UROC will âÄúimprove the human condition through the advancement of knowledge.âÄù The center is predicted to cost $3.62 million and is scheduled to open in spring 2009. Academic Progress Provost Tom SullivanâÄôs presentation of the University Plan, Performance and Accountability Report informed the Regents of progress and change at the University. The report outlined improvement in freshman ACT average, class rank, number of international students, study abroad rates, student diversity, student satisfaction and other categories. The report rated the University against a âÄúpeer groupâÄù of 10 other comparable schools, including the University of Wisconsin , the University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Sullivan and the Educational Planning and Policy Committee discussed the problem of four- and five-year graduation rates, which have been lower than the UniversityâÄôs goals. Sullivan told the Regents that the University is working toward graduation goals, but progress has been slow. âÄúWe need to remain focused on transformational, not just incremental improvements,âÄù Sullivan said. Some Regents mentioned the U.S. News & World Report rankings and the UniversityâÄôs somewhat low âÄî and in some cases absent âÄî position in many of its categories. Sullivan eschewed the report, claiming it focuses too much on class rank and test scores. The University prides itself on a more comprehensive, holistic method of application review and acceptance, he said. Awards Bruininks and the board took a moment to celebrate faculty excellence by recognizing new Regents professors . The title of Regents professor is the highest honor the University awards to faculty members, and is awarded once a year. Professors Allen Goldman , Steven Ruggles , Eric Sheppard and Madelon Sprengnether were recognized.