Reporter’s Notebook: Dissecting $162 million

by Briana Bierschbach

Editor’s note: “Reporter’s Notebook” is an occasional blog that will feature worthwhile content left out of a news story.  It will also give reporters an opportunity to talk about challenges they faced while working on a story.   


When writing a story about the stimulus package, you are going to deal with numbers — a lot of numbers. Readers want to know how many stimulus dollars an organization received, how much have been allocated, how many proposals went out, how many were funded. The list of number-heavy questions goes on.  In a story so entrenched in numbers, some had to be left out to keep from bogging the reader down with digits. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t more interesting figures connected with the stimulus and the University of Minnesota.


·        Minnesota will receive more than $1 billion in education-related stimulus funding, of which $816.7 million will be dedicated to state fiscal stabilization funds. More than 82.2 percent of these stabilization funds must be spent on K-12 and higher education with the remainder allocated to any general government purpose, according to the Minnesota Department of Education.


·          The $89.3 million in state fiscal stabilization funds allocated to the University of Minnesota was in turn allocated on campus by University President Bob Bruininks and Senior Vice President Tom Sullivan. One of their goals in allocating the funds was to avoid creating any new spending obligations at the University, Julie Tonneson, the University’s budget director, said.


·         Much like the University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) received a large pot of state fiscal stabilization funds totaling $79.2 million. These funds went to reducing the tuition increase by 5 percent and, “helped the 32 [MNSCU] presidents avoid making even more drastic cuts,” Melinda Voss, spokeswoman for MNSCU, said.


·         The University has submitted 856 stimulus research proposals to the federal government to date — the most submitted by any school in the Big Ten Conference, Vice President for Research Tim Mulcahy said.


·         For a single proposal deadline, the University submitted 224 proposals. Nationally, the deadline brought in 21,000 proposals, of which about 800 were funded, Sponsored Projects Administration Director Pamela Webb said. While the odds might be working against researchers winning proposal funds, I think Mark Paller, executive vice dean of the Medical school, said it best: “If you don’t buy a lottery ticket, you can’t win.”