Power to the payers

Though student leaders promise to solve tuition problems, they remain squelched from the budget process.

Throughout the last month, many people concerned with tuition increases, salaries and cuts have been reacting to the unforgiving 2009-2010 budget proposed by University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks and passed by the Board of Regents last week. Budget criticism has focused primarily on administrative salaries, cost-cutting measures, and tuition hikes. Yet surprisingly, little has been said of the budget process itself. Unlike at other Minnesota colleges, and at the University of Wisconsin where state statute requires student consultation , our student governments play no real role in the budget process. Make no mistake, the power to craft and propose the budget is infinitely greater than the power to react to it. But administration, under the time constraints of our state legislative process, has already begun work on the 2010-2011 budget . As in the past, merely one week before the budget is made public, student governments are contacted to review the budget with administration. Minnesota Public Interest Research Group Chairman Ryan Kennedy was at the meeting last fall and said that the âÄúadministration wouldnâÄôt tell us how much tuition would go up because it was not yet public.âÄù Tuition and fees have just recently started to represent a greater portion of University revenue than the stateâÄôs contribution. Student tuition has thus become the UniversityâÄôs primary financial lifeblood, and in time students were given some real power to stop the hemorrhaging and to see to it that contributions are spent with the thrift of those who make them. The Student Senate, Minnesota Student Association and Graduate and Professional Student Association deserve seats at budget meetings, early on and throughout the revision process. Until the tuition payers have legitimate say in how their tuition money is spent, it is unlikely the impoverishing trend of tuition will reverse.