U restructures in face of budget cuts

Though the University’s budget may see changes, financial aid won’t be cut.

Kathryn Elliott

Ten budget meetings down, 15 to go for University of Minnesota CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter and other senior officials.
They sat down for a âÄúfocused discussionâÄù with the College of Education and Human Development dean, assistants and financial advisors Tuesday.
The Athletic Department took its turn Monday.
This round of financial conversations with 25 academic units wonâÄôt be over until early April, Pfutzenreuter said.
The meetings are all part of the UniversityâÄôs preparation for the state announcement of how much or little  funding the school will get. The Legislature and governor have until May to formally approve a state budget. Gov. Mark Dayton has already proposed $171 million in cuts to state higher education.
The share of the UniversityâÄôs budget that comes from state appropriations has dropped from 32 percent in 1994 to the current projection of 18 percent for the 2011 fiscal year.
Pfutzenreuter said cuts and budget restructuring âÄúultimately comes down to fewer employees,âÄù a trend that is likely to continue for the next two years, he said.
Another balancing measure is a wage freeze next year for employees that will be subject to collective bargaining, he said.
University President Bob Bruininks has stated that heâÄôd like to solve two-thirds of the impending budget crisis through the UniversityâÄôs responsibility and one-third through students.
Pfutzenreuter emphasized that funding for student financial aid will not be cut.
âÄúThose are off the table,âÄù he said. âÄúWe will not reduce financial support for students.âÄù
Donations a ray of hope
Restricted scholarships and donations, which must be used for the purpose the donor designates, also wonâÄôt be touched. These make up about 10 percent of the University budget.
Last year, about half of the $186 million from restricted donations went to academic programs, and 22 percent âÄìâÄì $41 million âÄìâÄì went to student scholarships and support.
Many of these donations go through the University of Minnesota Foundation, which has begun to emphasize the ever-increasing need for direct student aid to prospective donors.
Jim Clausen has given financial gifts supporting the College of Science and Engineering as well as the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Rochester campus. The portion of his gifts that has gone to students âÄúhas been a priority and is a majority.
âÄúMore than ever now with the financial crunch the UâÄôs going through,âÄù Clausen said.
If tuition goes up significantly, added financial aid may help offset the cost for students, but it canâÄôt replace the money University programs will lose with diminished state support.
Mission at risk
Dr. Aaron Friedman, interim dean of the Medical School, said the University and the state of Minnesota share a âÄúpublic goodâÄù mission, which the state upholds through its financial support.
With more cuts, he said, âÄúthe mission is at risk.âÄù
The solution to budget cuts has exceeded past efforts at administrative restructuring, Friedman said. The Medical School will have to âÄúscale back considerablyâÄù by cutting state-funded programs.
In order to maintain its accreditation, the Medical School must continue certain required programs and activities for its students. As the school looks to eliminate programs, it starts by speaking with faculty and others involved with programs that are âÄúimportant, but not coreâÄù for accreditation.
One such program, the nationally recognized Rural Physician Associate Program, has existed 40 years, sending medical students on patient care rotations throughout the state. This can motivate students to return to those locations to practice medicine.
âÄúWe thought that it was important for students to become connected to communities in the state,âÄù Friedman said, âÄúBut we donâÄôt have to do that.âÄù
Two areas that are not state-funded and therefore protected from budget restructuring are clinical care and grant-based research.
In the past, state money has been allocated to educational resources, faculty training and the development of simulation programming so students can begin their technical learning on non-human subjects, Friedman said.
âÄúIf the state chooses not to support the school, we have to look at what the Medical School can truly afford to do,âÄù Friedman said.
As for the overall budget restructuring, Friedman said thereâÄôs more to be done and âÄúno one should be surprised.
âÄúItâÄôs been going on for a while.âÄù