A public or private U?

Record-level private funding has continued for the University.

2009 was a great year for private donations to the University of Minnesota âÄî its second-best year ever, in fact, with $267 million raised. This is welcome news, especially during times of deep recession, and we congratulate the University on being able to raise such large sums. $267 million, however, equates to more than one-third of the UniversityâÄôs annual (and ever-diminishing) public funding, and evidence would suggest that the University is counting increasingly on private rather than public funds. The report of the Future Financial Resources Task Force to the Board of Regents, under the heading âÄúStrategies to Advance the Excellence of the University of Minnesota in Light of the New Fiscal Reality,âÄù the Task Force suggests increasing revenues from a variety of sources, including private giving (along with real estate, intellectual property and other methods). There is no problem with efforts to increase private giving, but there is a problem treating private giving as a fundamental element of our financial strategy. Private giving is not constant and generally not predictable. Two unusually large gifts this year, of $50 million and $40 million, made up a sizeable portion of giving, and those were tied to specific projects. Nearly all private giving âÄî on average, about 96 percent âÄî has strings attached, so that it canâÄôt be spent on the UniversityâÄôs most essential operating costs. We encourage the administration to continue efforts to increase private giving, but we also urge them not to bet the UniversityâÄôs financial future on the unpredictable generosity of private donors. State support must form the financial foundation of this University if it is to remain a truly public institution.