The single largest factor in the future success of the University can be summed up in one word: money. The University needs money – state money – to keep tuition from increasing at a double-digit clip. The University needs money to fund its research priorities and attract federal dollars. The University also needs money to boost dismal faculty salaries and help bring top investigative minds to campus. As Minnesota elects a new governor and dozens of new legislators Nov. 5, voters should look for representatives who are willing to make it a priority to adequately fund the University.
Admittedly, the University’s case will be a difficult one to make this year amid grim budget forecasts. In such a climate, the University will present its lowest request for new money in 10 years.
“We put a budget together that we felt would maintain the strength and keep the University moving forward. But it is not a budget that funds all the
aspirations we have for the University of Minnesota,” said interim University President Robert Bruininks.
Still, elected officials must understand that a robust University is a great asset for Minnesota. In a knowledge economy, the institution attracts top minds and helps to recruit the oft-heralded “creative class” to the region. The brainpower, in turn, brings investment to Minnesota and, ultimately, helps improve quality of life. But to reap the benefits, Minnesota must first invest.
Too often in recent years the Legislature has failed to understand this point, as they continuously underfund the University. Top priorities, including the Translational Research Facility, are yet to be realized. But this election cycle promises great electoral turnover in St. Paul. And with that chance, Minnesota has the opportunity to elect a more appreciative government that will help ensure a positive future for both the University and for Minnesota.