Eaton: Budgets and bureaucracy

Ski-U-Ma(ybe another tuition hike isn’t the best idea).


The University of Minnesota is a special place — and I’m not just saying that because my education is the largest purchase I’ve ever made. It is one of the original land-grant universities as established by the Morrill Act of 1862. Essentially, the Morrill Act designated land to states who then sold that land and used the profits to establish public universities. While the ethics regarding land ownership are deeply questionable, in the age of skyrocketing college tuition and educational inaccessibility land-grant universities often provide a more affordable option to private colleges and universities.

Today, the “land-grant” designation means that some portion of that funding comes in the form of federal and state funding. The one-to-one match requirement is a key component of the identity of land-grant universities: The home state of the university must match federal funding for these institutions, dollar for dollar. However, at the end of the day, the state legislature determines whether or not that matching actually occurs.

The University of Minnesota financial requests for the 2022-23 fiscal years are lower than they have been in the last 20 years. Amid pandemic-related deficits and government delays, it seems strange for the University to request less funding from the state, not more. The question remains: Will the budget deficit fall on the shoulders of students?

President Gabel’s proposed budget already allots $49.7 million dollars to be reallocated from lower priority projects. It also states that “the projected increase in tuition revenue of $13.6 million results from projected enrollment changes, a proposed increase in the general resident and nonresident, graduate and undergraduate rates on all campuses of 1.5%, the continued phase in of the tuition surcharge for the TC College of Science and Engineering and a proposed surcharge for the UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering, and various market driven rate changes for various masters and professional programs.”

In a June 9 email statement, Director of State Relations Kelly Mellberg stated that, in the agreement published by the legislature’s higher education working group, only 82% of the University’s proposed budget was fulfilled by the legislature. Provisions that were not included by the working group include a request to decrease undergraduate tuition and a reduction in funding for Regenerative Medicine Minnesota.

The University’s budget does more than dictate tuition prices: It directly affects the economy of Minnesota. The University of Minnesota system employs over 27,000 people across the state and is considered one of the best employers not only in the state, but also nationwide. At a legislative breakfast, Gov. Tim Walz stated that “there’s strong agreement that the foundation of this state’s economic engine, cultural engine [and] social engine has been our University systems and of course, the University of Minnesota being the flagship.”

While the legislature’s decision remains subject to change, the impact of the University’s budget goes much farther than the boundaries of the Twin Cities campus. With budget requests at a 20 year low, it is unacceptable for the state legislature to deny the University this funding. It is deeply unfair for budget cuts to fall on the shoulders of the student body — many of whom spent the last two semesters paying full price for online courses — or on employees.

Community feedback on the proposed budget for the 2022 fiscal year can be submitted here until midnight on Wednesday, June 23.