Statement from the University of Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (01/16/2009) —The following is a statement from University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks in response to Gov. Tim Pawlentys State of the State Address:
The challenges facing Minnesota and our entire country are enormous. We welcome Gov. Pawlentys ideas on moving our state ahead and look forward to working with him and the Legislature to address these challenges. I understand the need for the University of Minnesota to be part of the solution to the current state budget shortfall. Our faculty, staff and students are well aware of the challenges facing Minnesota. We also understand that quality education is a key to everyones future prosperity.
Higher education is economic stimulus. The jobs created as a result of university research and entrepreneurial activity, and the strengthened human capital that results from the 14,000 degrees we award each year are Minnesotas homegrown economic engine. As I have stated on several occasions - the path out of Minnesotas current crisis, and a return to a vibrant and growth-oriented economy, lies directly through the classrooms, laboratories, libraries and halls of our great educational institutions.
Ensuring an affordable, high-quality education and the ability of students to graduate in a timely manner have been top priorities for the U of M in recent years. Despite deep state budget reductions, the university has made education more affordable through new tuition reforms and extraordinary increases in scholarship support. State-mandated tuition caps in the face of the significant budget cuts we expect the governor to recommend later this month will severely compromise the universitys ability to educate our more than 60,000 students and deliver on our research mission which attracts nearly $700 million in outside funding each year.
We appreciate the governors recognition of our work in the area of online learning. Thousands of University of Minnesota students already have a significant online component as part of their collegiate experience. We will continue to increase such opportunities for our students. Our digital campus (www.digitalcampus.umn.edu), unveiled late last year, is a significant step forward in that effort.
Despite the enormity of the states fiscal challenges, the university looks forward to working with legislators and the governor to preserve and strengthen our states economic and educational climate. We urge policymakers to provide the U and other state-supported agencies with maximum flexibility in addressing these severe challenges.