Students like Yudof’s vision, wary of funding

by Sean Madigan

Representatives from the Minnesota Student Association are pleased with University President Mark Yudof’s initiatives to improve the quality of education for undergraduates, but question the affordability of the programs.
In his State of the University Address on Thursday at the Rarig Center, Yudof said he wants the University to offer the highest quality undergraduate education of any comparably sized public research university in the country.
Yudof made improving the quality of the undergraduate education the first of five points in his program for the 1999-2001 Biennial Budget. He spoke of a “Campus Renaissance” in which he’ll physically beautify the campus, but also strengthen bonds with the community and return decision-making authority to the colleges and departments.
“I haven’t seen this type of vision for a long time. It’s refreshing,” said Student Senate chairman Jesse Berglund.
With state funding, Yudof plans to allocate money to academic advising, invest in undergraduate research fellowships, strengthen the international-study programs by expanding them two to three times their current size, and renovate libraries, labs and classrooms. He also vowed to improve registration and orientation procedures, housing and mentorship programs.
“President Yudof is going to really have to plead his case for all of that money. The pie is only so big,” said Ben Bowman, speaker of the Minnesota Student Association Forum. The programs sound great but keeping tuition low is important, he said.
MSA is lobbying to keep next year’s tuition increase to no more than 2 percent. Almost 95 percent of the programs and services in his program will be funded by the state and tuition dollars will account for 5 percent, Yudof said.
“Nothing comes for free,” Bowman said. Students pay tuition, but students also pay taxes that are the source for the state’s funding, he added.
Yudof cited the University Convocation and the Freshman Seminars program as two initiatives he believes have been successful.
Yudof stressed the importance of a high quality, accessible education at a relatively low price.
MSA’s Student Life co-chairman Patrick Peterson understands the need to balance provided services with cost, but wants to see more money put into financial aid. Financial aid should be increased for students receiving grant money to those receiving unsubsidized loans. College should be more affordable for all, said Peterson.