Regents take final vote on budget

The board approved harsh cuts after debate earlier this month.

by Luke Feuerherm

Budget cuts, tuition hikes and course reductions have all been officially approved by the University Of Minnesota Board of Regents amid tight budget constraints.

The tough decisions in President Bob Bruininks’ $3.4 billion budget plan were outlined at Tuesday’s board meeting, but the focus was on the University’s bleaker financial future.

At the meeting, the board officially approved recommendations it discussed earlier this month.

The budget plan includes a 4.4 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates and a 7.2 percent increase for others.

In addition the University has cut department budgets, reduced course offering and will decrease enrollment next year by about 200 students.

“We [did] whatever we could to take strategic action to reduce the budget and also protect the quality of the University,” Bruininks said. “But, you can’t do that indefinitely, particularly when the reductions are of this severity and magnitude and seem to be on a more extended basis than anything we’ve experienced in the past.”

The budget for fiscal year 2011 included a $152 million gap credited to a decrease in state funding as well as a 27th pay period.

At the meeting, Bruininks and regents said that they expect similar problems in the future due to continued cuts in state funding and stimulus money that expires after 2011.

Regents used the thirty-minute meeting on Tuesday to thank the president for making tough cuts, looking to the future and for expanding financial aid to help combat tuition increases.

“We have prepared for this storm, the financial storm, but we are facing a significant storm in the future too,” Regent Dean Johnson said. “But I commend you, Mr. President, and your entire staff for just simply not ignoring it but digging in your heels, sharpening the pencils and saying we have to make some changes, and I would tell you, I think the public appreciates that.”