Bruininks outlines cost cutting in State of the U

Bruininks highlighted the effects of declining public funding in his 2010 State of the University address.

by Taryn Wobbema

If the University of Minnesota is to survive the downward trends in state funding, it has to find permanent alternatives to fund its wants and needs without reneging on its land-grant mission, President Bob Bruininks explained in his 2010 State of the University address released Monday. Reiterating the major points of last yearâÄôs speech, Bruininks highlighted the effects of declining public funding. The president expects a $132.2 million shortfall for the coming fiscal year, the result of rising costs and state cuts. Bruininks wrote that he does not expect state funding to rebound enough to prevent the shift away from public support of higher education from becoming the âÄúnew normal,âÄù requiring public universities to fend for themselves. For this reason, the president outlined ways to tighten spending in both central and departmental areas. The cuts would simultaneously allow the University to focus on areas of greatest potential âÄî areas that best serve the mission of the University as a public research and land-grant institution. Bruininks wrote that the University has a three-pronged responsibility to contribute to the public by educating the future workforce, advancing innovative research and applying its knowledge to real-world problems. With fewer resources available, the president wrote, âÄú[we] must consolidate or eliminate academic units in order to invest strategically in our strengths and best opportunities.âÄù Changes like expanding the available course times would make the University more available to an âÄúincreasingly diverse and non-traditional student population,âÄù which would ultimately bring in more tuition revenue. For the most part, BruininksâÄô plans would come to fruition after several years of consistently reducing spending and concurrently increasing revenue from alternative sources. âÄúIt feels as though we canâÄôt make decisions quickly enough, and yet each decision must be weighed against the myriad impacts it will have on real people and programs, and against countless other decisions that could be made,âÄù Bruininks wrote. He wrote that he thinks it would be possible for the University to cut recurring costs by 2 percent every year for the next five years, which would save the University $150 million. The decommissioning of different buildings around the Twin Cities campus is expected to save $10 million. Improving the use of information technology could trim $20 million over the next five years. Bruininks wrote that he also thinks it would be possible to save $25 million each year on goods and service purchases. The University will seek to grow non-state revenue by 10 percent over the next five years through private giving, moderate tuition increases, grants, real estate and intellectual property. But none of this will be enough to overcome the need for state funding. âÄúWe cannot raise private money quickly enough to replace state funds, so state funding will continue to play a significant role in our future,âÄù Bruininks said. -Taryn Wobbema is a senior staff reporter