ARobert Bruininks s we plan for some very tough financial decisions, I believe that it is important to give our faculty, staff and students a candid assessment of the challenges and choices we face and to develop transparent budgeting processes that reflect our priorities and core values.
Over the next few months, I will communicate early and often with those most impacted by our decisions, and I am committed to consultation and communication with the entire University community. Let me tell you where things stand.
First, it is critical to understand the magnitude of the budget challenge we face. Consider these facts:
Gov. Tim Pawlenty has recommended a $209 million reduction for the 2004-05 biennium. The Legislature could reduce the University’s budget even further.
This cut would be the largest in the University’s 152-year history.
Adjusted for inflation, the reduction takes us back to 1986 appropriation levels. In real dollars, it takes us back five years to 1998.
To give you a sense of scale, the state reduction is the equivalent of 1,700 University jobs, or a 30 percent tuition increase next year.
When you take into account “must-do” financial obligations, and investments in academic and student programs, the total budget challenge is about $258 million over two years.
As you can see, the challenge is real, it’s historic and it will require many tough choices and sacrifice across all our campuses and facilities.
I want to share with you the framework we are using to approach this challenge.
Everything is on the table. As we look at reducing costs, there will be no sacred cows. We will assess expenditures, priorities and investments and ensure they align with our mission, aspirations, goals and accountability measures. As we approach these difficult decisions, I believe that it is important to strengthen the University and preserve, as much as possible, our talented work force.
We will be more efficient and reduce administrative and operating costs. We must seek creative ways to reduce duplication of effort and improve efficiency, without sacrificing service.
Sacrifice will be shared broadly. Our strategies for managing the budget will have a broad impact. Employees, programs, students and citizens who rely on our outreach must make sacrifices. For example, we expect to ask employees, subject to negotiations, to accept a one-year salary and wage freeze and to assume a greater share of the cost of benefits, including health care, while ensuring that both remain competitive. Without such action, cuts in the University’s work force will be substantial. Students will also shoulder part of these budget cuts through increased tuition and fees.
We will not sacrifice academic excellence. We cannot squander the incredible investment the people of Minnesota have made in this university or erode areas in which we are a national leader and a magnet for talent. Even as we reduce costs and eliminate activities and programs that are less central to our mission, we will continue to invest in key academic priorities.
We must increase and diversify revenue. We must be creative and improve productivity and efficiency in, and marketing of, our services and facilities. While recognizing the essential role of state funding to the University, we will identify units and programs that can become less dependent on state support over the long term.
Even as we plan for this budget challenge, we are vigorously making our case at the Capitol, meeting with the governor and legislative leaders, and providing committee testimony. The Board of Regents and influential friends of the University are helping make our case. Our faculty and students have organized outstanding advocacy days, turning out hundreds to the Capitol. Our 4,000-person grass-roots network has been mobilized, and we’re phoning alumni and friends each week to ask for their support. If you haven’t yet contacted your legislators on behalf of the University, please do so today. For more information about the budget and the legislative session, go to: www.umn.edu/govrel.
Over the next few months, the Legislature will act and we will continue this budget discussion within the University and with the Board of Regents. I am planning to meet with all our employee groups, and each member of our executive team is involved in this process. By bringing all our collective wisdom and creativity to this problem, we can solve it in a way that makes the University stronger and serves our students and the people of Minnesota better.
Robert Bruininks is the president of the University of Minnesota. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]