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Board of Regents meeting summary, October 2011

The Board approved the recommended state capital budget request

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October 18, 2011

The Board of Regents approved President Eric Kaler's recommended 2012 state capital budget request during its Oct. 14 meeting. The capital request asks for $169.4 million in state bonds to be matched by $39.7 million in University bonds, including $90 million in HEAPR (Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement) funding to pay for projects necessary to meet health and safety concerns and to make repairs to extend the life of existing facilities.

The request would also fund renovation and installation of new gas-fired turbines in the 99-year-old Old Main Utility Building ($54M). That plan would meet the energy needs of the Minneapolis campus while significantly reducing the campus’s carbon footprint. Other projects included improvements to the Itasca Biological Station ($4M), the rehabilitation of Eddy Hall in order to optimize space and create a flexible work environment for student services staff ($14M), and a new American Indian Learning Resource Center ($7.3M) on the Duluth campus.

Plans for a new ambulatory care facility were postponed, VP of University Services Kathy O’Brien told the board, while the U works on restructuring the project.

O’Brien called the total request “modest” as compared with past years, when requests have averaged more than $200 million, she said.

The Legislature is expected to act on the request during its 2012 legislative session. Learn more about the capital request at Government Relations.

President’s report
During his report to the board, President Kaler presented an overview of his first 100 days.

He told the board he had visited three of the U’s statewide campuses, with a Duluth visit planned in two weeks. In particular, Kaler highlighted the signing of a new partnership agreement between the U, the Hormel Institute, and the Mayo Clinic. The agreement includes the addition of VP Tim Mulcahy to the Hormel Institute’s board.

President Kaler also gave the board a sneak peek at the University’s 2011 "Driven to Discover" marketing campaign, with one TV spot featuring U bee researcher Marla Spivak and another featuring first-year dance student Sommer Walters. For more information, see the news release or watch Driven to Discover: Bees and Driven to Discover: Dance.

Kaler concluded his remarks by saying a few words about professor Judith Martin, who passed away on Oct. 3.

Enrollment figures
During a report of the Enrollment Management Committee, the board heard that the U continues to see improvement in its freshman class. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities saw the highest-ever ACT scores, high school class rank, and number of National Merit Scholars in this year’s freshman class. More information can be found in the news release.

The board also considered a recommendation to increase undergraduate enrollment on the Twin Cities campus by 1,000 students, primarily in the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines (STEM) in an effort to address needs for a highly trained, specialized workforce. The recommendation came in the "Scope, Size, and Mission" report of the Enrollment Management Committee, led by provost Sullivan, vice provost and dean of undergraduate admissions, Robert McMaster, and Kathryn VandenBosch, professor of plant biology. The committee was tasked a year ago to develop a long-term strategic enrollment plan for the Twin Cities campus. The work includes determining the appropriate balance of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students; new freshman and transfer students; and full- and part-time students.The full report and appendices are available online.

Landscape of higher education
During a Board of Regents work session on Oct. 13, President Kaler presented information on higher education issues such as the characteristics of a modern research institution and the importance of graduate education.

President Kaler touched on the advantages of having a differential tuition approach, saying that every other Big 10 university uses the method, and that the U is at a disadvantage because it doesn't take the approach. Competitors charge for programs with a differential cost of instruction and/or a differential starting salary, and differential revenue is critical for hiring faculty and program enrichment, he said.

Kaler also spoke about the need to address the achievement gap between whites and students of color, saying that few issues are more critical to Minnesota. "There is no gap in the ability to achieve," Kaler said.

Kaler provided an overview of U tuition and state appropriation funding trends, noting the U’s share of the state general fund dropped from 8.3 percent of total state spending in 1971 to 3.6 percent today. Over the past 14 years, tuition and state appropriations grew 22 percent while the student count rose 36 percent, Kaler said.

While spending per student has decreased during the same time period, student outcomes have improved—the U has become more efficient. 

Other Board news
The Board unanimously approved Karen Hanson as the new provost. Hanson will begin on Feb. 1. For more information about Hanson, read "Making the case."

President Kaler introduced Eric Schwartz as the new dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Schwartz officially began Oct. 12.

The Board of Regents approved the 2011 University Plan, Performance, and Accountability Report.

The board will not meet in November.

For more information, see the meeting docket materials.