Bruininks emphasizes U’s importance to Minnesota’s education, economy

Nathan Halverson

University President Bob Bruininks told a packed room of business leaders last Tuesday that he did not think Minnesotans understand the University’s importance.

“I don’t think the citizens have a clue how valuable the University is to the state and the economy,” he said.

Bruininks, the featured speaker at the Carlson School of Management’s First Tuesday Luncheon Series, told the group that investing in the University had an “incredible rate of return.”

He said a study by a Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs graduate student showed investing in the University returned $16 for every $1 invested.

He said the University’s presence created 20,000 jobs in the private sector. Startup companies that are a result of technology discovered by University researchers are another key contributor to the economy, he said.

These factors made the University the best place to invest public money, he said.

The high bond rating the University recently received was proof that the University had good fiscal management, Bruininks said.

Minnesota has a strong history of education, he said. In 1999, Minnesota ranked third in the country with nearly 91 percent of the state’s population holding high school degrees, according to the Department of Trade and Economic Development. In 1999, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Minnesota government contributed more to education than to any other area.

However, the state cut funding to higher education during the last few years to fix budget shortfalls.

Bruininks said running the University under those conditions is challenging, but that he still considers his role as the best CEO job in the country, referring to the University as a business opportunity.

“It is a place that is absolutely essential,” he said.

Nathan Halverson welcomes comments at [email protected]