Bruininks talks finances in State of U Address

The president called attention to economic challenges impacting the University.

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks gives the State of the University address in Coffman Memorial Union on Thursday.

Matt Mead

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks gives the State of the University address in Coffman Memorial Union on Thursday.

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks addressed a crowd of roughly 300 about the future of the school in his State of the University Address Thursday afternoon, a talk dominated by finances. He said this is the first year that private support outpaces public support. Bruininks said competition from other countries is changing as well, citing a scholarship in Saudi Arabia promising full tuition for both graduate and undergraduate education. In regards to the University providing a similar scholarship, âÄúitâÄôs unlikely we would do so in the near future,âÄù Bruininks said. However, he said expanding need-based financial support to include middle-income students was âÄúthe next frontierâÄù in making college affordable. Through expanded federal tax credits and increases in need-based scholarships, Bruininks said, the impact tuition increases have on median-income families will be reduced. The University is hoping to have the Discover U scholarship âÄî a tuition reduction program for median- and low-income students âÄî in place by 2010 or 2011, University spokesman Daniel Wolter said. âÄúWeâÄôve basically said weâÄôre going to fund what we would ask for from the Legislature,âÄù Wolter said, âÄúwhich was $8 million just for the middle-income piece, with reallocations and private funding. We are acknowledging that we are probably not going to get more money from the state.âÄù The Founders Free Tuition Program would be absorbed into the Discover U Program. However, until the Discover U Program is in place, the Founders program will remain the same, Wolter said. Affordability was one of four strategies Bruininks proposed âÄúto solidify the UniversityâÄôs quality and mission for coming generations.âÄù He also talked about goals for an agreed-upon vision for resource use with the state of Minnesota, a stronger financial model, and a strengthened core and capacity for the University. In a question and answer session at the end, concern was raised about administrative spending. Bruininks responded saying that in 2003 the administration took the deepest hit and will not be exempt now. Bruininks stressed that economic challenges are impacting the way the University operates and that the importance of community canâÄôt be overstated. He made references to past events in University history when faculty, students and alumni worked together for the good of the University. âÄúShifting finances, changing demographics, global competition and increased accountability âÄî these are the new realities that we will continue to face even after the economy stabilizes,âÄù Bruininks said. âÄúThey are not insurmountable, provided the University emerges strong from its current challenges.âÄù