MN skews funds from U

Has MnSCU become the state’s central institution of public learning?

The Senate bonding bill passed last week contained $111 million for the University of Minnesota system and $297 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU). But the House awarded the University $34 million less while it offered MnSCU an additional $46.5 million. The two systems receive comparable general state funding, but on Monday Gov. Pawlenty proposed a $36 million cut to the University and only a $10 million cut to MnSCU. Is the University being defunded in favor of MnSCU? If not, why the enormous budget discrepancies? University CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter cited legislative politics: âÄúItâÄôs always been difficult for the University, because MnSCU has a project in every part of the state, but we donâÄôt.âÄù He added, âÄúThe discrepancy in the House: IâÄôve never seen such a low bill before, and we donâÄôt understand what message Rep. Hausman is sending to us.âÄù Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, holds the powerful position of chair of the house capital investment finance division. âÄúBecause of the economy, many people are returning to school, and the accessible system is MnSCU,âÄù she explained. âÄúEnrollments are up significantly.âÄù Asked if MnSCU has replaced the University as MinnesotaâÄôs central institution of public higher education, Hausman said, âÄúI donâÄôt think so … The University is still the one and only premier research institution.âÄù Unlike the Senate, the House didnâÄôt provide any resources for a new physics and nanotechnology building. So what do legislators say the University has done wrong? Hausman said, âÄúI think the University is carrying out its academic mission in quite an appropriate way. If youâÄôre asking, âÄòIs there any relationship building that needs to take place?âÄô thatâÄôs another question.âÄù So, we asked that too. But Hausman had little to offer: âÄúI donâÄôt know how to approach it âĦ ThatâÄôs a tough one.âÄù She did caution the University not to read too far into the bonding budget this year, âÄúThis, I think, is an economic aberration.âÄù LetâÄôs hope so, otherwise MnSCU-mah! may not be far off.