Bruininks voices lasting budget concerns

Tuition and fees make up nearly as much as state contributions to the University.

Heather L. Mueller

University President Bob Bruininks emphasized the need for state support before the University Board of Regents Friday to keep tuition and student fees increases to a minimum while offering the framework of his 2008-2009 biennial budget request.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, University vice president and chief financial officer, said Bruininks hopes to keep tuition around the higher education price index rate of 4 percent or 5 percent. 2004, by contrast, saw an increase of 14.7 percent, the highest ever, Pfutzenreuter said.

Pfutzenreuter said tuition increases are “directly related to the amount of new money from the state and how much tuition costs will be.”

Bruininks will propose the budget in October. It will move to a vote by the board in November and then to the Legislature in the spring.

In his speech, Bruininks said investments, resource allocation and state funding are needed to “maintain excellence” and meet the goals of strategic positioning. The state, he said, needs to be a long-term, indispensable partner with the University.

“This isn’t just about research,” Bruininks said of his request. “It’s about education.”

Bruininks said he wants the University to be known for quality of management and academics in addition to its research efforts.

“We have to ask the state to invest but we have to be willing to reform at the same time,” Bruininks said.

Bruininks explained the importance of the University being an innovative organization that “grows out of strategic core disciplines and strong departments.”

In the 2007 budget, University students are expected to shoulder nearly as much support for the University through tuition and fees (21 percent of the budget) as the state’s contribution (25 percent).

State participation and support are necessary to keep tuition and fees affordable, Bruininks said.

Privately sponsored research activities are expected to bring in 21 percent of University revenues in 2007.

Bruininks said the University needs $2.6 million in private endowments to make up for what was lost this year.

To reshape itself, the University needs to forge partnerships with the state and private sectors, Bruininks said.

“As I sit here today, I do not believe we can get there without a strong enduring partnership with the state of Minnesota,” he said.

Regent Frank Berman asked Bruininks what revenue streams will help the University, as trends show less state funding over the past 12 years.

“Every public research university is facing these trends,” Bruininks said, adding that the University needs to be more entrepreneurial.

Commercial partnerships and University patents are expected to bring in about 23 percent of revenue for the University’s 2007 budget.

Bruininks said while University patents are profitable, only “about 5 percent of patents result in blockbuster returns.”

Regent Peter Bell questioned whether the “loss of state appropriation prompt(ed) major reallocation.”

Bruininks said the loss “set the table for some very serious discussions.”

He described the lack of state funding for the past five years as a “very, very deep blow Ö one of the deepest cuts anywhere in the nation.”

New University leaders
Regents also welcomed three new Regents’ Professors and three new leaders to the University on Friday.

Professors Megan R. Gunnar, Kathryn Sikkink and Donald G. Truhlar were welcomed with a handshake from each regent.

The Regent Professorship, established in 1965, is the highest honor given to University faculty members for outstanding academic distinction in scholarly or artistic work, teaching or contributions to the public good.

Bruininks and Provost E. Thomas Sullivan welcomed Dr. Nancy Barceló, new vice president and vice provost for equity and diversity, Dr. Jacqueline Johnson, chancellor of the Morris campus and Dr. Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Carlson School of Management.

Sullivan said he was proud half of the University’s 20 deans are women.

Regent Patricia Simmons summarized the morning’s budget discussion and faculty recognition.

“Right now the University is in a much stronger position to achieve it goals with its leadership,” Simmons said.