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Band on hand, University of Minnesota leaders seek $45 million budget boost

Drum Major Ari Martin conducts a University of Minnesota pep band Feb. 22 as part of “U of M Day at the Capitol” events. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)
Drum Major Ari Martin conducts a University of Minnesota pep band Feb. 22 as part of “U of M Day at the Capitol” events. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)

Lots of folks come to the Legislature asking for funding, but how many of them show up with a pep band?

University of Minnesota officials did on Thursday.

University of Minnesota Interim President Jeff Ettinger testifies before the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Feb. 22 during a presentation of the school’s supplemental budget request. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)

The young musicians delivered a stirring rendition of John Philip Sousa’s “Minnesota March” while assembled on the Capitol’s front steps, the bright February sun glinting off the bells of their horns as flags of maroon and gold were twirled about before them.

The band was on hand as a prelude to the university’s $45 million supplemental budget request being presented to the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee. The university’s interim president, Jeff Ettinger, said that it would fund the system’s “core mission.”

“There’s a kind of narrative in the general public that higher education is suffering from runaway spending,” Ettinger said. “When I look at the aggregate spending at the university over the past 10 years, the compound annual growth rate of those costs has been 2.9%. So I don’t see that as a runaway number at all.”

Ettinger said the supplemental funding would be used to:

  • limit tuition increases for students;
  • increase compensation for faculty and staff;
  • invest in such student services as counseling, advising, and academic support;
  • maintain classrooms and instructional spaces;
  • support research and technology infrastructure; and
  • preserve and maintain facilities.

If signed into law, the additional $45 million would bring the university’s total recurring base for operations and maintenance for the 2024-25 biennium to $1.39 billion, an increase of 3.3% over the previous biennium.

Ettinger also said the university plans to keep the number of administrators flat for the coming year. It’s an issue that Rep. Marion Rarick (R-Maple Lake) addressed, saying statistics on the university’s website show there are 27,675 employees systemwide for a student enrollment of about 68,000.

Ettinger also mentioned that his tenure as interim president is expected to soon come to an end. On Monday, the Board of Regents plans to publicly interview three finalists for the position and make their choice.

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