Lawmakers are critical of Kaler’s priorities

State legislators questioned how the University is using its funding from past budget cuts.

by Christopher Aadland

Lawmakers didn’t hold back from questioning the University of Minnesota’s spending practices and budget plans on Wednesday.

President Eric Kaler and other school leaders presented the University’s budget at a House of Representative’s higher education committee meeting, where state legislators asked how the school is using past savings from administrative cuts.

“If you’re really saving something, couldn’t it be applied to tuition costs?” Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, asked on Wednesday.

In 2013, the University committed to cutting $90 million over six years in administrative spending, and it has already eliminated $36 million.

The school is requesting $65.2 million in state dollars this session to freeze tuition for resident graduate students and undergraduate students who pay the in-state rate. Last month, Gov. Mark Dayton proposed to only fund half of the freeze — a significant landmark in the school’s uphill battle to secure its requested amount in state funding this year.

Kaler said while he would like to hold tuition at its current rate, the school shifted the administrative savings to other areas.

“The cost reductions that we have taken out of administrative costs have been reinvested in elements that we believe are better and higher value,” he said at the meeting.

Legislators will agree on final funding amounts before the session ends in May.