Letter: Setting the record straight on funding for UMN vs other state schools

Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota on April 5, 2015.

Daily File Photo

Northrop Auditorium at the University of Minnesota on April 5, 2015.

by Andrew Andrusko

The reason I write is in regard to the recently published article, “In budget fight, University of Minnesota finds stiff competition with state schools.” In the article is a quote by Regent Dean Johnson stating that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System received more funding per student in the last biennium than the University of Minnesota. This claim is incorrect.

Over the last decade state fund appropriations to the Minnesota State System have been significantly lower when compared to the University of Minnesota. In fact, data presented in 2014 in The Statesman Newspaper at the University of Minnesota-Duluth showed that state universities and community colleges receive on average $2,000-$4,000 less per full time/full year equivalent student. This is so, despite the glaring fact that the Minnesota State System educates a proportionally larger number of students. In addition, none of the Minnesota State institutions have endowments in the same order of magnitude as either the University of Minnesota (more than $3 billion) or the University of Minnesota Duluth ($154 million). These were seeded originally with the state’s portion of the Land Grant Acts and state school lands. By comparison, the largest endowment at a state institution is about $50 million. That means proportionally less scholarships, less research, less opportunities for those students.

Whether by full time equivalence, student headcount or by credit hours, it is a fact that the Minnesota State System receives less in state funding (and funding in general) than the University of Minnesota system. This has been a trend for quite some time.

Estimates by the Minnesota State System Office of Finance show in recent materials to the Board of Trustees that the State of Minnesota has underfunded the state colleges and universities and overfunded the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota[1] when compared to the average in the Midwest Region and the United States.

I ask that you provide more balanced reporting. The Minnesota State system and its students are not empowered in the same way that University of Minnesota students are. They do not have the resources that you do. It is a shame that there are voices out there that believe that the State System is somehow receiving more than its fair share when it hasn’t received an equitable share of state funding for at least two decades. Compounding this is the continued lack of cooperation between the systems.

Andrew Andrusko

Higher education advocate

Editor’s Note: This letter was edited slightly for style.