In legislative testimony last month, I was asked what an additional $190 million reduction to higher education funding would mean for the University of Minnesota’s next biennial budget. I responded with three points:
1. If our portion of this cut were solved by tuition alone, it would take back-to-back double-digit increases.
2. If addressed solely by lay-offs, up to 1,800 dedicated employees would be dropped from our workforce.
3. Neither of these approaches is acceptable.
My response has been taken out of context by the media multiple times now. Let me assure you: Per the guidelines proposed by the University to legislative leaders, we will not propose double-digit undergraduate tuition increases in either of the next two years. We will not force Minnesota students and families to bear the brunt of state budget reductions. In fact, more than two-thirds of our budget challenge will be met by cost reductions, including deep reductions in personnel. For the past year, we have been reducing our workforce through voluntary means and cutting other costs, and we continue to make tough decisions every day.
Education and innovation are essential to Minnesota’s prosperity in the global economy. The proposed reduction to the University’s state budget base is at least 7 percent and, with an additional unallotment, could go as high as 13 percent per year during the next two years. We are working to protect our quality and momentum, but we are approaching the point at which further reductions will put future opportunities, as well as Minnesota’s long-term economic strength and quality of life, at risk. And unless we speak plainly about these problems — and accurately about proposed solutions — we cannot move forward.
Robert H. Bruininks is the president of the University of Minnesota. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.