Created: 02/17/2014 9:36 PM WDIO.com
The University of Minnesota system is coming under fire for alleged disparities in state funding to its campuses. Even Duluth Mayor Don Ness has weighed in, posting to his Facebook page that it's "simply embarrassing."
Now President Eric Kaler is setting the record straight following news reports he said didn't tell the whole story.
A letter from Kaler to Gov. Mark Dayton dated Wednesday, February 12, thanked him for his recent visit to the University of Minnesota Duluth. But in the next paragraph, it shifts focus, saying "I understand you were quite concerned about the disparity" after a reporter brought up a "funding imbalance" between the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses.
In the letter, Kaler wrote "I want to clarify this funding issue." He traveled to Duluth Monday to do that for students, staff, and Eyewitness News in person.
According to the letter, the news report said UMD's state funding dropped by about 40 percent between 2009 and 2013 as a result of the recession. Meanwhile it said funding to the Twin Cities campus dropped by about 20 percent.
Kaler said the numbers came from the President's Recommended Annual Operating Budget. But he said putting them side by side isn't comparing apples to apples. He said "it's simply not an accurate comparison of where dollars go."
The letter said the budget presented to the Board of Regents annually "is configured around the University's organizational/budgetary structure and was never intended to represent a geographic display of revenues and expenditures."
Kaler said there are more programs and campuses included in the Twin Cities budget than the College of Liberal Arts. For example, he said it includes medical and pharmacy schools with campuses in Duluth.
"It's simply erroneous to divide the Twin Cities budget by the number of students, divide the Duluth budget in that document by the number of students, and then compare the results," Kaler said.
University of Minnesota staff said that while tuition is about $660 more per year at the College of Liberal Arts campus in the Twin Cities, tuition makes up the same percentage of the budget there as at UMD, or 77 percent.
The concern over funding comes as UMD looks to cut millions from its budget. They're currently looking for employees to take voluntary layoffs.
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