Economists: state will spend less on education, more on aging population

State economists described Minnesota budget woes to University regents.

Taryn Wobbema

State economists detailed MinnesotaâÄôs forecasted $1.2 billion budget deficit for the University of MinnesotaâÄôs Board of Regents on Thursday, a âÄúfiscal trapâÄù that leaves the state grappling with where to invest and where to cut spending. Tom Stinson, a state economist and a professor in the UniversityâÄôs Department of Applied Economics, said the state will experience pressure to focus spending on issues in health and the care of the aging population as citizen demographics shift with baby boomers. This will subsequently leave less money for areas of education, infrastructure and higher education. University President Bob Bruininks said the University âÄúcanâÄôt accept the proposal that disinvestment is the path to the future.âÄù ItâÄôs a catch-22, Stinson said. The problems canâÄôt be fixed with short-term solutions. Instead, long-term structural changes would require greater productivity, which he said, would be reached through a work force equipped with the right set of skills and new technology developed through public and private research. Both would require continued investment in education. Bruininks said the money that is available has to be invested smarter. He said the state âÄúwonâÄôt have the very people [it needs]âÄù to continue spurring on economic growth in Minnesota. Regent Patricia Simmons said she would like to see the board involved in finding a way to position the University to accommodate any new training and education needs of the state. State officials announced the $1.2 billion state budget deficit last week. Looking more long-term, the state faces a $5.4 billion shortfall in 2012-13. Stinson emphasized the projections are only a forecast at this point. Gov. Tim Pawlenty said last week he will consider cuts to programs across the board to fill the deficit. No more âÄòITâÄô People outside the University of Minnesota no longer associate the acronym IT with the UniversityâÄôs Institute of Technology . So, after nearly 75 years with the name, IT will become the College of Science and Engineering after the full Board of Regents votes Friday. The name change was approved by the Regents Educational Planning and Policy Committee on Thursday. IT Dean Steven Crouch said the change was decided with the support of all the major stakeholders such as faculty, students and alumni. He did not identify any large groups who oppose the new name. IT is known as the college of engineering, physical sciences and mathematics. Crouch said the new name better reflects the varying programs offered in the college. Michele Peterson , biomedical engineering senior and president of the IT Student Board, said the board was solicited for feedback. She said the change will take some adjustment. Having experienced questions from prospective employers about what IT actually is, Peterson said she believes the new name is appropriate. âÄúItâÄôs definitely a big switch,âÄù Peterson said. The change will begin to be seen this month with full implementation established next summer, according to a news release. The release also stated the entire cost of the name change will be donated by the IT DeanâÄôs Advisory Board.