Budget request will get a vote

TBy The Daily Staff

The Board of Regents will vote today on a $1.5 million budget request for an environmental assessment on the site of the proposed on-campus stadium.

If the amendment to the biennial budget is approved, the money will be used to pay for environmental reviews and analysis of the site, which is now part of the Huron Boulevard Parking Complex.

Kathleen O’Brien, vice president of University Services, said the projected cost of the stadium is now $235 million because of inflation. A feasibility study last year estimated the project at $222 million.

She added that the cost of building materials is increasing “at extraordinary levels.”

At the meeting, University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg outlined a potential timeline for the environmental review process.

Assuming the work begins in January, the regents could hold a public meeting in March to discuss a report on the stadium’s possible environmental impact. In September, the board will hold another public meeting regarding the draft of the report. By January 2006, the regents will have to decide whether the environmental report is adequate.

If the board approves the amendment, stadium-site preparation and stadium construction could begin later in 2005.

University President Bob Bruininks emphasized that moving forward with the analysis will help keep the stadium project on track to open in the fall of 2008.

Regents talk strategy

The regents also discussed creative ways to budget during the next six years.

It was the first step in ongoing talks about the University’s long-term budget. The board looked at revenue and spending trends during the last decade, major cost drivers and factors that impact budget planning.

The board will meet again in March and look at the budget forecast for the next six years, revenue and expenditure projections, and different budget scenarios.

“I don’t see these work sessions as a series of disconnected conversations,” Bruininks said.

When it comes to long-term financial strategy, he said, it’s an ongoing conversation.

Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said the University’s budget will be balanced this year and is balanced every year. However, it’s important to understand the decision-making and trade-offs behind the budget, he said.

Bruininks said he thinks the budget must not only be managed but “managed creatively” for the future.

The University talks study abroad

At an Educational Planning and Policy Committee meeting, the regents also discussed the importance of student international experience.

By 2005, University officials said, they would like 50 percent of students to have some type of international experience.

An international study abroad or work program is an accredited University program, which could range from a three-week global seminar to a full academic year.

In the 2003-04 school year, 22 percent of Twin Cities undergraduate students participated in study abroad programs.

Eugene Allen, associate vice president for international programs, said University students need international experiences to stay competitive.

“In the past, it might have been nice to have international experience in our programs,” he said. “(But now), it’s increasingly becoming essential.”

Regent Maureen Reed said the University should consider making studying abroad a requirement for all students.

“If we are really looking to the future, why not say 100 percent of kids need to study abroad?” she said.

Allen said that although it would be ideal for all students to study abroad, there are other factors that need to be considered, such as cost and previous commitments to jobs and rent.

No school at the University requires international experience, although it seems as though some do, Allen said. The Carlson School of Management is one school with a high participation rate.

Carlson School administrators told Allen that they do not require international experience, but most students think it is a requirement, he said.

The School of Fine Arts at the University’s Duluth campus is considering making studying abroad a requirement. The Duluth campus’ business and economics school is also discussing the possibility of an international requirement.

Regent Chairman Dave Metzen said the University should focus on foreign language requirements as well as international experience.

Study of the Chinese language should be pushed, because China will be an economic powerhouse in the future, Metzen said.

Minnesota high school students are taking Chinese more than in any other state, he said. But he said that number is still only 2,000.

Metzen said he would push the study of foreign language, especially Chinese, as a personal initiative.