U of M budget: Tuition stable, staff layoffs loomingby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — There is good news and bad news in the proposed budget for the University of Minnesota. Good news for students who would see minimal tuition increases. Bad news for staff, who are facing job cuts.
This not the kind of news that U of M students expected to get in these tough economic times. Next year, the most they'll see tuition go up is 3 percent, or about $300.
That's sounds pretty good to Kurt Andersen, a junior music major from Bloomington.
"I know in the past they've had increases upwards of 10 percent. So this'll be a good break," he said.
University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks says for many students and their families, the news is even better. "Very few of them will see any increase, and the increases they do see will be relatively modest," said Bruininks.
Sixty percent of students who pay in-state tuition will see their bills go down next year. That includes a 5 percent tuition cut for students of families who make around $90,000 a year, and a 20 percent cut for students of families making around $50,000.
The decrease comes courtesy of the federal stimulus package, new scholarships for middle income families, new tax credits and an increase in the Pell Grant. Students who come from low-income families essentially attend the university tuition free.
Here's the bad news. Because the university's state funding will be cut an estimated $177 million in the next two years, school officials must reduce spending -- and that will translate into job cuts and layoffs.
In the next year alone, the university will need to make $95 million in internal cuts. In Bruinink's new budget, that includes eliminating 1,240 University jobs.
"Taking 1,200-plus people out of your workforce in a short period of time is a very big reduction in the workforce," said Bruininks. "Asking the people who remain to take salary and wage freezes, as we are doing all across the state of Minnesota, is a sacrifice that is needed right now -- and one that our people will support."
Those 1,240 jobs will included faculty, administration and staff. Bruininks says many of the cuts will come through early retirement or by not filling open positions. But he acknowledges there will be at least 400 layoffs.
That news has left workers at the university wondering what the next year might hold.
"Clerical workers are terrified that they're going to lose their jobs," said Phyllis Walker, president of the clerical workers union at the U of M.
Walker is a clerical worker herself, in the finance office at the U's law school.
"They know that in this economic climate, if they lose their job here, it will be difficult to find another job somewhere else," she said.
There are about 1,600 clerical workers at the U, and Walker says they will vote soon on a new two-year contract. It forgoes a raise next year, and includes a 2 percent raise the following year. She says the union negotiated that deal with the U's economic troubles in mind.
University officials will host a public forum next week to discuss the upcoming budget. The Board of Regents will vote on the budget proposal June 24.
- All Things Considered, 06/12/2009, 5:20 p.m.