Med School preps for more cutbacks

The U has been watching the state’s budget to predict how much is on the line.

Jessica Van Berkel

Last week, the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center announced it had received $35 million from stimulus funds. But such funds are a âÄútemporary shot in the armâÄù for medical research and education, which is facing cutbacks at schools across the nation, said Dr. John Prescott, chief academic officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. The University of Minnesota Medical School is looking at cutting down the size of its classes, research and residency program in preparation for the possible cuts in state funding for the 2010-11 school year, said Medical School Dean Frank Cerra, who is also the senior vice president for health sciences. The state revenue forecast, which will come out in a couple of weeks, will show whether further cuts need to be made. âÄúThings could get worse,âÄù said Richard Pfutzenreuter, University vice president and chief financial officer. âÄúI fully suspect the state is going to take more money away, and thatâÄôs whatâÄôs causing [cutbacks],âÄù Cerra said. The state appropriation to the University is about $623 million next year. How much each school, like the Medical School or Institute of Technology, receives is decided through discussions in the school and with the UniversityâÄôs Office of Finance. Since the Medical School receives a lot of money from the appropriation, it may also see big budget cuts, Pfutzenreuter said. âÄúWhy do you rob banks? Well, thatâÄôs where the money is.âÄù The UniversityâÄôs budget saw a $50 million cut this spring from Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs unallotments. On Monday, the House Rules Committee joined a lawsuit claiming the unallotments he made in June were unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the University faces a period of uncertainty. If the unallotments are overturned, the University will have to âÄúgo back to square one,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said. Nationally, medical schools are being âÄúconservative in their approach to adding new programs and new faculty or staff until they are absolutely sure they can sustain them in the future,âÄù Prescott said. âÄúWe have to look at infrastructure, you know, the support systems with the people that do the work and âĦ get them to be more efficient,âÄù Cerra said. This could also mean job cuts, because âÄúmost of our budget is people,âÄù he said. However, the UniversityâÄôs development of its Biomedical Discovery District is moving ahead. The area of research buildings being developed near Stadium Village will cost about $292 million to build. Cerra said the school is continuing to build the biomedical facilities and will hire the faculty they need to fill them. âÄúWeâÄôre not going to cut back on that,âÄù he said. The Medical Student Council was involved in the discussion of budget cuts for this year. The cuts of about 10 percent were spread evenly across the departments, Patricia Dickmann, Medical Student Council member and fourth-year class president, said. Dickmann said she hasnâÄôt seen any big changes to education as a result of the cuts, and the size of this yearâÄôs incoming class was somewhere between the number of students admitted in the previous two years; a little more than 200.