Board of Regents votes to reduce scholarship

by Tiffany Smith

It’s official: the University of Minnesota Board of Regents passed a measure Friday that will require employees to help pay their tuition costs. Instead of offering free tuition to employees, the Regents Scholarship will cover 90 percent of tuition for those seeking their first baccalaureate degree, and 75 percent for all others.


According to the proposal, the change is effective beginning fall 2009.


After unanimous approval by a regents committee Thursday, the full board passed the change Friday, though regents Maureen Ramirez and Steven Hunter said “nay” to the measure.


Ramirez, a former recipient of the scholarship, told the committee she’d heard from employees who said the change would prevent them from continuing their education. She added she felt the cuts would be made at great cost to the productivity of the workforce.


Hunter acknowledged the tough economic time and praised Bruininks for lowering the cut for those seeking their first degree, but said he was nervous about opening the door for future administrations to make further changes to the scholarship.


Regent Dean Larson, however, said he sees paying 10 percent of full tuition as “one heck of a deal,” and said the board also has to be fair to full-tuition paying students. “I think it’s called for,” he said.


Other regents in favor of the measure tried to put it in perspective by comparing the savings from the program to jobs ($3 million = 50 jobs, according to Regent Clyde Allen), and comparing the University’s scholarship program to those offered in the private sector.


In private industry, Regent John Frobenius said, it’s common to see scholarship plans that don’t cover the full cost of education and that function as tuition reimbursement rather than up-front payment.


Regent Patricia Simmons, who chairs the board, requested a report on the measure be made in a year.


Many University employees have expressed disapproval of the change, some of whom rallied outside the McNamara Alumni Center, where the regents meet, on Thursday. For more on employee concerns, see previous Daily articles:


Employees Rally in May

Employees Rally in March

Backlash over cuts