Professor's View: A thank you from the Twin Cities to UMD students
Dear UMD students,
As we enter the new year, we want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continuing financial support of our education here at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. Surprised to hear that? You shouldn't be.
One year of undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth costs $16,300. Of that, $4,300 is state appropriation and $12,000 is tuition. Here in the Twin Cities, tuition is $13,000 — only 8 percent more than yours, so you would expect state funding to be similar. Yet here in the Twin Cities, we actually receive $8,400 of state appropriations per student: about double what Minnesota Duluth students get. If it weren't for your much-lower state funding in Duluth, we might have to pay more tuition in the Twin Cities.
Should the University of Minnesota administration decide to distribute state appropriations evenly between Twin Cities and UMD undergraduate students, each of us at the Twin Cities campus would have to pay about $900 more. Meanwhile, you at UMD would pay $3,200 less than what you pay now.
We are especially appreciative of your help because of how much is at stake for UMD right now. The sacrifices you will have to make for our financial support next year — namely, 60 layoffs and endangering your status as a comprehensive regional university — are enormous, and we are really grateful for that.
We also want to thank University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler for all those budgets favoring the Twin Cities campus. We will miss him when he retires.
And last but not least, we want to express our gratitude to the Board of Regents, which, year after year, has made all this possible by approving President Kaler's budget proposals without ever addressing the gap in state appropriations between the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses.
Thank you all, and happy New Year!
University of Minnesota Twin Cities students
The above letter is fictional, but the numbers are real. It would be enough to decrease the state appropriation to Twin Cities students by $120 per student (that is, by 1.4 percent) to completely eliminate the UMD budget shortfall — euphemistically called a "structural imbalance" by University of Minnesota administration. This would save those 60 jobs and keep classes that need to be canceled because of the terminations.
However, we should not forget the root cause of this issue is decreasing state support for public universities and colleges. University of Minnesota state appropriations went down by about 10 percent between 2007 and 2017, after adjusting for inflation. And for that we need to "thank" the Minnesota Legislature.
Dalibor Froncek is a professor of math at the University of Minnesota Duluth.