Funding reaches greater Minnesota with classes

Erin Ghere

In terms of city and state outreach, the University is putting its money where its mouth is.
With $1.1 million of the $103 million the University received from the state Legislature this session, officials hope to establish the University Center-Rochester and expand University extension services. The main goal of this research endeavor is to direct research that benefits Minnesota’s general public.
The University will offer courses in health science, technology and education on its Rochester campus, as well as advanced-level course work for post-baccalaureate degrees in education.
Mike Wilhelmi, legislative assistant for Sen. LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, said the University could decide to pledge $2 million of their legislative take-home for the Rochester campus, in addition to the funds from the Legislature.
The Legislature’s funding will also allow for $600,000 to help the expansion of programs at the University Extension State-Wide Service. The extension service has employees in all of Minnesota’s 87 counties and supplies individual counties with University courses at the regional level.
“The funding allows us to build capacity for delivering University outreach,” said Jeanne Narkell, assistant dean and director.
The courses are not for credit, but can be specialized through a Rapid Response Fund. This fund directs outreach for emerging issues that communities identify and creates specialized courses to address them. The funds will also be used to attract and retain quality faculty, she said.
The University Center-Rochester funds were not originally scripted in Yudof’s budget proposal, and officials said they were hoping the funding would not be included in the budget allocation, but in a separate bill. The University ultimately was allotted $500,000 for the project.
When the plan for the University Center-Rochester was born early this year, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ Board of Trustees member Nancy Braatas said the center would need $5 million to get off the ground. That funding would have been used to establish a permanent faculty and set up an infrastructure for the campus.
House representatives originally allotted $5 million for the Rochester campus, in line with Braatas’ estimate. But after conference committee with the Senate, officials walked away with one-tenth of that amount for the project. One reason for the large cut in funding was that lawmakers from MnSCU schools were worried the new campus would draw from the same pool of potential students and decrease the numbers attending MnSCU schools, said a Senate source.
The Legislature funded Yudof’s budget request by supporting University extension services, as well as the undergraduate experience, faculty and staff pay increases and building repairs. The health and human services bill allocates $16 million over two years for health professional education.