Bruininks’ guest column unsettling

The contradictory statements left many questions unanswered.
  • Russell Ericson
October 25, 2009

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks’ Oct. 19 guest column was unsettling. In it, Bruininks states, “We need both [quality and affordability] in order to be a leading public university; if we price ourselves out of the market in an effort to be world-class we will cease to be public in any meaningful sense, and if we fail to invest in quality we will slide quickly into mediocrity.”
I agree that affordability is a critical ingredient for a leading public university. However, tuition at the University of Minnesota has more than doubled over the past 10 years. As a result, University graduates are faced with the highest debt loads in the Big 10. Increasing tuition won’t reduce either of these figures, yet tuition increases are already planned and seem as though they will become de rigueur in the foreseeable future. How will these planned tuition increases combat the University pricing itself out of the market?
In his letter, Bruininks states that sharing knowledge in our classrooms is part of what we do here at the University. But it is common knowledge among undergrads that average test scores in most of the introductory math and science courses at the University are somewhere between 40 and 60 percent. Without a curve, about half of the people in the class would have failed. A midterm average in a class I recently took here was 32 percent. This seems to be business as usual at the University, even though these numbers clearly indicate an instructional problem. If no one is passing the tests, no one is learning anything.
According to Bruininks, “Minnesota has numerous colleges and universities that focus primarily on teaching and leave research and outreach to us …” Should students at the University not expect to be taught in their classes? Have 50,000 undergrads made a “false choice” by choosing the University, where education is apparently not the primary focus? Are we not sliding “quickly into mediocrity” yet?

Russell Ericson
University undergraduate student

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