Debate arises over U goals

A resident-satisfaction survey was presented to the Board of Regents.

Anna Weggel

University officials and Minnesota residents have differing ideas about what the direction of the University should be.

In a resident-satisfaction survey presented to the Board of Regents on Thursday, residents identified the most important goals for the University as providing high-quality undergraduate, graduate and professional education, and being a good manager of financial resources.

The University commissioned the survey, and KRC Research conducted it.

But the University is moving toward acquiring a more-qualified and successful student population, said E. Thomas Sullivan, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost. The survey showed Minnesotans feel the University should be open to all residents who meet minimum admissions requirements.

“Nobody has ever really wanted that open admission,” Sullivan said. “We are designed as the research, graduate and professional education university with a strong undergraduate (program).”

In the survey, which was administered by telephone, national rank was comparatively low on the list of importance to residents. The 400 Minnesota residents who took the survey ranked the goal at 63 percent importance. Providing high-quality graduate and professional education, undergraduate education and affordable tuition were ranked 88 percent, 87 percent and 84 percent, respectively.

Sullivan said the University is now within the top seven public research universities in the world, and it has to compete based on global standards.

“If we do not have goals and aspirations to continue to improve our academic performance Ö we will fall behind the competition, and that will significantly impair our ability to attract the very best faculty and students,” he said.

Sullivan said the fall’s Citizen’s Report, which is determined by a publicly appointed board of citizens, concluded that the University needs to be more selective in its admissions process. He said the survey and report need to be looked at together to fully gauge public interest.

Regents Chairman David Metzen said it’s important for the University to be one of the top research institutions. The administration is still studying the survey results, he said.

“It’s just one piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Metzen said one of the reasons Minnesota has such strong medical companies is because of the University’s Medical School and engineering school.

“When you’re world-class, you get world-class faculty, and world-class faculty brings in top kids and lots of research dollars, and it’s a magnet for the Twin Cities for job opportunities,” he said.

Nathan Wanderman, a student representative to the Board of Regents, said he understands both sides of the argument, as a student and resident of Minnesota.

“As a student who would like to see the institution get better for the purpose of having a better-looking job application in the future, I would say I would like to see them get more selective,” he said.

At the same time, as a board member and resident, Wanderman said, he sides with Minnesotans.

“I feel like if they’re paying money to this institution to educate their kids, then we ought to make it open as much as possible to Minnesotans,” he said.