People Are Our Greatest Asset

The University must find ways to reduce costs, increase productivity, and grow funding.

Yogi Berra once observed, “It’s tough making predictions, especially about the future.” The problem with all long-term planning is that the future is uncertain. Somehow we still make it work.

This year, we took a visionary step forward with the creation of the Minnesota Biomedical Research Program. It enables the University to bond for $292 million to finance four new biomedical research facilities. This expansion is more than bricks and steel; it will enable us to attract even more talented researchers and students. In addition, the legislature and governor approved $140 million in bonding for University capital projects statewide, including $48.3 million for a new Science Teaching and Student Services building on the Twin Cities campus.

That’s a $432 million total bonding package for the University. And despite a state budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion, we were able to negotiate more manageable reductions to our state appropriations, enabling us to balance our budget while meeting our commitments to our employees and students. The 2008-09 budget includes:

– A 7.25 percent tuition increase for undergraduates
– A general salary expense increase of 3.25 percent and
– Increases in student financial assistance.

These investments in compensation and financial aid, as well as our efforts to reduce the projected tuition increase for undergraduates, are important because the University’s strength is its people. We are committed to excellence, but we only succeed when you succeed. Buildings garner lots of attention, but without students, faculty and staff, they are only shells.

We still face an uncertain future. Experts agree that additional state budget shortfalls are likely. The University must continue to find creative ways to dramatically reduce costs, increase productivity, and grow private and sponsored funding.

We’ve made tremendous progress in recent years. Now we must do more for a wider circle of students and their families. We must continue to preserve and develop the state’s human capital – because in these uncertain times, Minnesota’s greatest asset is you.

Robert H. Bruininks is the University President. Comments are welcome at [email protected]