U set to tighten belt, raise tution

Thursday the Board of Regents will hear President Bruininks’ plan to fill the University’s budget gap.

Luke Feuerherm

For the second consecutive year, the University of Minnesota faces a budget crisis.

On Thursday, the Board of Regents will discuss University President Bob Bruininks’ recommendations for correcting the University’s $152 million budget gap. The president’s plan includes a 4.4 percent tuition increase for undergraduates and the restructuring or elimination of entire offices.

“There are a number of offices that are just plain going to be cut,” Bruininks said in a previous Daily interview. “I’ll have a better announcement on those probably in the May and June period.”

Bruininks was referring to this month’s regents meeting at which the University’s three senior vice presidents will present examples of cost-saving procedures, according to University spokesman Dan Wolter.

The $152 million gap is composed of $119.7 million in financial obligations and a $32.2 million reduction in state funding from fiscal year 2010 levels.
For months, colleges have been preparing for cuts through their blue ribbon committees, which are looking into cost-saving procedures and have been instructed to recommend departments to be eliminated.

Regents will discuss these early recommendations by the president and vice presidents as well as the 4.4 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students on Thursday and Friday before Monday’s public forum on the budget.

As many departments brace for cuts, the regents will vote Thursday to approve a budget increase for the Office of General Council, which has had a busy year defending the University on several high-profile legal cases.

Those include the Jimmy Williams trial, the battle with the Metropolitan Council over the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line and the case of medical resident taxation on its way to the Supreme Court.

Additionally, regents will be meeting privately with University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg on Thursday morning to discuss these cases.

Regents’ discussions this coming week will help the University prepare its final fiscal year 2011 budget, which will be unveiled in October.

University budget issues will not end this year, however. It will be the last year the University will receive stimulus funding, which kept tuition increases at 4.4 percent instead of the 7.2 percent in-state undergraduate students would pay without it.