Regents approve university budget

Budget will increase tuition by 14 percent

Molly Moker

When presenting the 2004-05 operating budget and capital budget Friday, University President Bob Bruininks told the Board of Regents he felt like the “bad news bear.”

To address a $2.6 billion deficit in this year’s operating budget, Bruininks said operating and administrative cost reductions and a 14 percent tuition increase would be necessary.

The University’s capital budget also decreased from $188 million to $44.2 million, because the Legislature did not pass the bonding bill before the session ended.

The Regents reluctantly passed Bruininks’ entire “bad news” proposal, saying it was the only way to balance next year’s budget.

“I am very supportive of this resolution, not because I like it, but because it has to be this way,” Regent Maureen Reed said. “We looked at other options and this is the only way for it to work.”

Regent Frank Berman said he was not pleased with the budget Bruininks presented, but said he had no choice but to pass it.

“The University is being placed in jeopardy, real jeopardy,” Berman said. “It’s time for people to understand that we have been cut to the bone. This is an emergency.”

Although Bruininks said the tuition increase and budget cuts will hurt, he is proud the institution addressed its problems and did not push them into the future.

“What we did not do was rely on reserves to balance this budget,” Bruininks said. “We did a lot of things that were the right things to do, and they were very, very difficult.”

Bruininks said he is optimistic that the University’s funding will improve in future years.

“We act as if these trends are inevitable,” he said. “I suspect this isn’t true.”

Bruininks said it is difficult to say what will happen to the University’s funding in the future, but the institution will lobby for more state funding from the Legislature.

“The state is still facing a very severe budget problem without an apparent solution,” he said. “I think (the University) is headed for some continued challenges and we will need every tool available to us.”

If serious budget problems persist, Bruininks said more program cuts and tuition increases are inevitable.

At the meeting, the regents also gave Bruininks his annual performance review. Bruininks received a strong evaluation, with the board saying he fought hard for the University’s mission during tough times.

Members said they were pleased with Bruininks’ ability to make difficult decisions, his high morale and his commitment to protecting the University’s mission.

But members said they would like Bruininks to develop a new funding model in the future that would stress the University’s importance to Minnesotans.

Regents Chairman David Metzen said Bruininks’ appraisal was well-deserved.

“This is not a high-grading group,” Metzen said. “It was a very thorough review.”