The classical pillars of Northrop Auditorium on the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota.

Star Tribune file,

Answering efficiency questions at the U

  • Article by: Richard Pfutzenreuter
  • November 22, 2013 - 5:56 PM

Much has changed at the University of Minnesota in the 25 years since Richard Sauer was briefly the interim president (Readers Write, Nov. 17), and we have dramatically picked up the pace on operational excellence since Eric Kaler became president two years ago.

Sauer wondered: “What is the U doing to be more productive within the cost of educating undergraduates?”

The answer is: A lot with a lot less. Our combined state and tuition revenues per student (inflation-adjusted) have dropped by nearly 13 percent during the last 14 years. Employee head count has increased an average of just 0.3 percent per year (3 percent overall) during the past decade, but undergraduate enrollment has increased by about 10 percent. We award more degrees per employee than before.

Greater efficiency has improved student outcomes, with four-year undergraduate rates doubling in 12 years. ACT scores of incoming students on the Twin Cities campus are the highest in history, and 91 percent of first-year students are returning as sophomores, which signals continued progress on four-year graduation rates. We are a diverse campus, with the percentage of students of color (19) well above the state’s demographics.

As for innovation: Technology developed by our faculty engineers and scientists spawned 35 start-up companies in the past three years. We pioneered a nation-leading intellectual property licensing agreement, and 52 companies have signed on, further driving the state’s innovation economy.

As for affordability: For Minnesota families with an annual income of less than $75,000, the Twin Cities campus has the lowest net cost for a student of any four-year college, public or private, in the state.

Those are real productivity gains that Minnesotans can be proud of. But President Kaler doesn’t believe we should stop there, because there is more opportunity and work to do. All of us at the University of Minnesota come to work every day focused on delivering the high-quality education that Minnesotans expect and deserve.

Richard Pfutzenreuter is vice president and chief financial officer at the University of Minnesota.

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