Bruininks: U funding cuts stunt growth

University President Bob Bruininks urged White Bear Lake, Minn., business leaders Tuesday to support the University’s legislative funding request.

He said the current legislative budget is not providing sufficient funds for the University to continue to grow.

Bruininks’ remarks came in a speech to the White Bear Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced in February that the University’s budget would be cut by 15 percent, or $185 million, for the years of 2004 and 2005.

“We can’t take this much longer,” Bruininks said. “We raise prices on students, and we cut budgets.”

He also said the state’s lack of investment would eventually cause a decrease in the University’s quality.

Anne Kirby McGill, a University spokeswoman, said Bruininks has spoken to hundreds of such groups throughout Minnesota in the last few years.

“People are vested in the University,” she said. “We rely on people in the greater community for legislative requests, private donations and students.”

Bruininks said the University has had significant success raising private funds in recent years, but such a strategy could not sufficiently counter state funding cuts.

“If we were to continue to raise private donations, at that same rate, it would take us 25 years to make up for what happened last year.”

Bruininks said the budget cuts have been taking their toll on University faculty as well.

“What I find absolutely amazing is that (faculty) keep the productivity up the way they do,” he said. “But they can’t keep those levels up.”

A White Bear Lake higher education official said his college has had a very different experience than the University’s.

Chamber of Commerce member Larry Litecky, who is also president of Century College in White Bear Lake, said his college has compensated for a 15 percent cut to its state funding by expanding 52 percent in the last five years.

“Our buildings are bursting at the seams,” Litecky said.

He said some of the college’s programs have nine times as many applicants as they can serve.

“More of our folks transfer to the University of Minnesota than any other receiving institution,” he said.

But Chamber of Commerce member Mike Bromelkamp said Bruininks’ points were not new.

“He really didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before,” Bromelkamp said.