Friday, March 16, 2007

Heads up for a hand out 

As our presidential search winds down, not surprisingly, the outgoing president of the university, Roy Saigo is conspicuous in his absence from campus. (Maybe he's down at Xcel today to help protest the UND mascot.) But he appears last night to encourage us to shake the tin cup with state legislators, via a campus e-blast:

It will be important that legislators hear from constituents about why Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are a critical state investment. Your voice can make a difference in the level of support we receive at the Capitol this year. Adequate state funding not only keeps tuition affordable, but also makes important investments in strategic areas. State appropriations are needed to cover inflation, to make critical technology infrastructure improvements to benefit students and to strengthen the state�s competitive edge in four key areas, laid out in the Minnesota budget request:

Recruiting and retaining more students from groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education;

Producing more graduates in science, technology, engineering and math;

Increasing the number of nursing graduates to help avert a predicted nursing shortage;

Supporting the growth of the state�s burgeoning bioscience industry by establishing a Biosciences Center of Excellence.

For specifics of the request, go to

I realize I sound like a broken record, but if I was a state legislator wouldn't I want to know if our children were learning? And learning what? STEM and nursing are nice, but state universities educate in other areas like business, and teaching.

And, to be blunt, the amount of inflation in the budget is a ruse to increase faculty and staff salaries, since these are the largest part of the budget. While our salaries are declining in relative terms to the rest of the country, wouldn't you think we should demonstrate something of what we've produced before we ask for a little more? When we are down to 40th percentile in pay in many programs (ours included, when you account for the lack of additional compensation for summer research, etc.), how much should I work to get more money for science education? How much faith should I have that the university system has picked the winners in the education market for our students?

UPDATE: The higher education budget passed by the Senate Higher Ed committee has $104 million for inflation, $10 million for technology, and $14 million for the underrepresented students, all put into the base (so that is money to come each future biennium as well.) The STEM and health care money were not in the bill that cleared the committee, nor was Governor Pawlenty's request for $25 million for a �performance bonus� -- i.e., no merit pay.

Labels: ,