Yudof warns of disturbing trends in higher education

Melinda Rogers

University President Mark Yudof said last week the University might have to rethink its mission if the Legislature does not respond to the institution’s budget request with adequate funding.

Yudof told the Board of Regents at its May meeting that the University will have to decide between being a low-tuition, high-access provider to Minnesotans or a high-tuition, elite school requiring more money to attract the best professors.

“The University is in kind of a purgatory (with) moderate tuition, not enough public aid and an inability to compete with elite private universities,” Yudof said.

He said the University, along with other public institutions, might become more like private institutions if forced to raise tuition and depend less on state funding.

“There is a gradual withering of the understanding that the work of public research universities is a public good. The future then portends a decline in excellence at most great publics,” Yudof said.

“Everyone understands that the old covenant – low tuition, high access – is breaking down. American public higher education needs a reality check, because it’s not looking so good out there,” he added.

Yudof’s comments came as legislators began working to combine the House and Senate higher education bills.

Gov. Jesse Ventura allotted the University $56 million of its $221.5 million increase request. The House proposed increasing the University’s budget by $64 million, the Senate by $138 million.

Although the final bill isn’t completed, Yudof told the regents to start thinking about difficult decisions to come regarding the University’s mission.

“We have to either modify our goals or think of other ways of doing business,” Yudof said.

Coffman plans approved

The board approved schematic design plans for the Coffman Union renovation at a cost of $71 million earlier this month.

The cost is $21 million more than University officials anticipated.

Regents first approved plans for the project in 1999; however, redesign was necessary after bids for the renovation came in $32 million over budget. The original cost of the project was estimated at $50 million.

The renovation is primarily funded by increased student service fees, but the additional $21 million will come from a variety of sources including student union reserves, tenants and food outlets.

Construction on the project will begin this month; some tenants will be able to move into the building in August 2002. The entire renovation is scheduled for completion in November 2002.

The new union will feature a 45,000-square-foot “mega” bookstore, replacing East and West Bank bookstores. Restaurants and student organizations will also be housed in the renovated building.

“We want people to look at Coffman Memorial Union as a destination,” said Eric Kruse, vice president for University Services.

Added Twin Cities Student Union representative Lance Patrick, “I believe this has been redesigned to focus on students.”

 

Melinda Rogers covers the Board of Regents and welcomes comments at [email protected]