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 Response Page - Bruininks  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Robert Bruininks Interview of

The Questions:

On a scale of (0) most disagreement , to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on the following:

1. _8.7 average response_____ Because of slower growth in the state's economy and because of competition with other public services for tax revenue, higher education in coming years will not be able to rely upon state government to the extent that was possible in the past .

2.  Lawmakers struggle with how to balance (a) direct aid to post-secondary education institutions and (b) the state grant program for students.  The first option holds down tuition for all students.  The second provides income adjusted assistance directly to students.   On the (0-10) scale how do you rank these options?

            a. _4.3 average response______Emphasize direct aid to institutions.

            b. _8.1 average response______Emphasize the state grant program for students.

3.  _5.7 average response_____  K-12 and post-secondary education should be treated as one system, not two separate systems.   

4.  _7.6 average response_____  The number of post-secondary institutions in Minnesota should be reduced.

5.  Online post-secondary institutions are providing new competition for mainstream colleges and universities.  On the (0-10) scale please rate these options for how mainstream institutions might respond.

            a.  _6.2 average response____They  should support efforts of individual faculty members who choose to develop technology-based components in their courses, but separate e-education units aren't needed.

            b.  _6.0 average response____They should establish new units for e-education with separate executive teams reporting directly to their governing boards.

Scot Housh (10) (8) (2) (7) (7) (8) (2)

 E learning should be incorporated into the curriculum and learning provided by the bricks and mortar portion of the University.  As E learning becomes more prevalent, the University will need to adjust appropriately.

Tom Abeles (10) (2) (10) (10) (10) (0) (0)

Education is pK-16 by decree so the State should strip out the overlapping courses between these systems. Virtual education allows both the MNSCU and Uof M systems to share courses reducing costs via redundancy reduction in courses, departments and programs. Graduate programs also can be selectively distributed. Where it makes economic sense, services such as tutoring can be outsourced. Undergraduate faculty and secondary faculty can be merged and criteria for promotion and tenure re-organized. As with the community colleges and the private for-profits faculty are employees and the illusion that they are "scholars" in a 17th century university needs to be questioned. There is too much evidence that change is going this way, and as the Borg say on Star Trek, "resistance is futile" and costly.

Rick Bishop (10) (5) (10) (5) (1) (10) (8)

There should be available more post-secondary options, not less.   With that choice and authentic programming will be evident.

Michael S. Weber (6) (5) (6) (10) ( 6) (7) (4)

I strongly agree with Bruinink's statement that public dollars invested on children at the earliest age is our very best investment.

Michael Martens (8) (5) (8) (1) (9) (9) (5)

I assumed that question 4  referred only to the U of MN College & University system & not to private colleges or technical schools.

Did anyone ask Bruininks about what is a "full teaching load" for  faculty members?  Should faculty that are not regularly teaching a full load be transferred to adjunct faculty so the U etc. does not have to pay a full time salary and ever more importantly full time benefits?  Do U and MNSCU get cost of living and seniority increases?that money to the "super star" faculty?

Arvonne Fraser (5) (10) (5) (4) (5) (9) (5)

Instead of K-12 we should be talking about preschool through high school and beyond high school as two separate tracks.  Q 1. is not a question but a conclusion.

Chuck Slocum (8) (5) (10) (10) (10) (3) (8)

Question 3:  Include early learning as well.  Bring down the silos.  

Question 5a:  Some disciplines are more conducive to e-education than others, to be sure.

Question 5b:  Must give the U’s management, the president and his top team, the tools and opportunities to lead in bringing about positive change.

The U of Mn has more good will going for it than any other institution of higher learning in Minnesota, as it should.  Change has been slower than necessary to adapt to the state’s needs.  Strongly agree with President Bruininks on his view about global competition, early learning and college preparedness.  It will take money to do this but, if done in a way that is successful with more young people, it will have an enormous payback. Too many kids on are a “failure track” and we know who they are and what it takes to turn it around.

Ray Schmitz (5) (4) (8) (9) (9) (9) (4)

Very good discussion

Gary Clements (8) (2) (8) (0) (2) (10) (0)

Any internet based educational offerings should be subjected to close scrutiny to be sure that the course content has adequate rigor, and that the testing procedures are valid and secure.  Technology offers us tremendous ability to access and analyze information, but I am concerned about students who learn in isolation, without the human interaction that so critically tests the depth of one’s knowledge and understanding.   That interaction happens best in the presence of peers and under the supervision of a teacher / professor.  We have long known that an undergraduate degree from certain institutions is more highly respected than one from certain other institutions, nationwide. I wonder where degrees from these newly blossoming online institutions are valued along that continuum, and how we go about evaluating the knowledge and abilities of the recipients of these degrees. I can imagine learning by machine to be more relevant to some subjects than others.  I can imagine learning another language that way, or using instant feedback from computerized practice systems in memorizing formulas or other basic level memorization projects in most any discipline.  I have trouble turning over the evaluation of clear, articulate communication of ideas, and the human skill of personal interaction, give and take, in problem solving sessions, to computerized, programmed systems.

Dave Durenberger (10) (_) (10) (0) (10) (2) (9)

I kept looking for hope in his comments and found only the same old same old: send us better students.

Scott Halstead (10) (6) (4) (_) (0) (7) (_)

Individuals who lack qualifications should be required to attend  Community Colleges to qualify to enroll at the U. of M.  Perhaps the majority of students should attend Community Colleges for all preliminary courses so the University of Minnesota specializes on upper  level courses.   That would save costs for individuals and the University.  E-education would be much easier to establish for preliminary classes.

Kevin Edberg (10) (3) (8) (2) (10) (7) (5)

I hold three degrees from the  University of Minnesota, and spent 10 years of my life in  this environment. Of all the public institutions in the  state, I have the least trust in the leadership ability of  the U of M to make the changes needed for our future. a)  There are too many fiefdoms in the academic culture, and all  resist change. b) There is a great value to  the academy. But the culture of the academy is not the  culture of business. Yet the leadership of the academy,  and many academics, believe they can institutionalize the  academy to function as a business in support of economic development. I haven't seen the evidence that supports that  belief, yet large state resources go to support this  mis-belief.  c) As a three time alumnus, I have  trouble agreeing that the focus of being a  "top 3 public research institution" is what the state of MN  needs. I don't see the culture within my university to  deliver on that. I  did find Dr. Bruinink's observations about the need for external leadership as honest; his statement about the value of pre-K education as accurate; his assessment of MN's needs  being addressed by a culture of innovation and brainpower to be exactly right.

Dewayne Dill (10) (0) (10) (10) (0) (0) (10)

Glenn Dorfman (5) (0) (10) (5) (10) (8) (0)

Baby Boom demographics will dramatically reduce education over-head in the next 18 years. The retirement of baby boom public employees will offer up a huge public dividend (lower salaries and benefits) and the political opportunity to make changes in the 20th century industrial model of education, of public services. More money does not improve value in Minnesota public services as it might in Mississippi or Alabama, etc.

Al Quie (10) (4) (9) (0) (10) (_) (10)

One of the big problems facing us is human relationships, human interactions and group collaborations. Elmer L. Andersen was more of the cause than the culture around him. Leaders like E.L. Andersen do not come along very often. It is a learnable skill. I would take away K-3 from public schools and do prenatal through 3rd grade with the parents involved and empowered, located where small groups of parents are located in the daytime. I would give the University some authority over grades 11 and 12. The idea would be two things --- all children read proficiently in the 4th grade and no young people need remedial work when they enter post secondary education. Redesign must be helped by the people who can think like Elmer L. did. 

The university could be an even better research institution if they could benefit more financially from the results of their research that pays off.

Ralph Brauer (5) (0) (10) (_) (_) (_) (_)

Ray Cox (10) (2) (10) (0) (10) (3) (8)

While a link between K-12 and HiEd is valuable and important, so far HiEd has been able to distance itself from some of the significant difficulties that K-12 creates for itself. I would be very careful about any effort to treat K-12 and HiEd as one entity.

 Minnesota's State Grant Program is a tool that needs to be supported as it provides direct assistance to the students, giving them the ability to select a school that best suits their needs. If we shift the issue and only provide assistance through public institutions we will create a class division between schools.

David Broden (7) (8) (6) (10) (7) (3) (7)

Question 1:  We have budget issues and belt tightening in all areas. The balance of need and purpose for higher education vs. other state funded services should be treated within depth consideration of what is being asked for and what it offers. The days of automatic funding are perhaps over but the days of sound rationale building the case for funds. 

Question 2:  The balance of a and b for state institutions must be balanced with the role of state U's and colleges and student aid for students who attend private institutions.

Question 3:  This is a valid statement if post secondary also includes Vo-Tech education and there is a link to private colleges as well. It is the overall student population that we must look at not just the state units.   

Question 4:  A hard look at what the mix of institutions is today vs. the need and vs. the type of education and training available is needed on a regular basis. Rather than say close/reduce which may be the best thing to do the first step is to determine if the right resources in education are available and are being used and then reallocate what should be used etc. 

Question 5a:  This approach will only create individual fiefdoms--a structure that has technology based education as part of each department is critical and should be required but not driven by each individual faculty member they only will build it the way it benefits themselves not the overall use. 

Question 5b: This is good--competition and independence will strengthen the institution. How this is done without creating just more complex overhead and insuring a lean system is a must. 

1. There needs to be a increased focus on education for the current workforce or adults who are part of the workforce but must have ongoing education to update the work skill that they are involved with--the adult active workforce must be enabled to stay in the work force and our institutions may not be doing the best to capture and supply this need--technology may be the answer but it requires a heavy focus. 2. The role of the U in Minnesota and regional economic development must  be expanded and made more effective. We frequently hear of the good and sometimes troubling issues of U of M Tech Transfer work--regardless it must be stronger and expanding and definitely more visible. 

Jack Paul (8) ( _) (_) (_) (_) (_) (_)

Something is seriously wrong with tuition and the costs of educating. It cost me $109 per term for as many credits as I could take at Michy State U and I could pay for it myself with campus jobs, and now kids are $30k - $50k+ in debt when graduating. They do not do this in Europe, so why must we?

Kent Eklund (10) (5) (9) (2) (5) (3) (3)

Higher Education is headed down the same path as private education -- high tuition, high aid models.  I don't see any other path in the competitive world of funding at the state level.

Wayne Jennings (9) (2) (8) (7) (8) (9) (8)

Charles Lutz (6) (6) (4) (5) (9) (6) (6)

Dale Fairbanks (10) (1) (10) (3) (7) (3) (1)

The university system needs to consolidate the U of Minnesota with the rest of the state universities and colleges.  Use Georgia as an example.  The U of Georgia is the flagship of the university system in the state, with one board of regents managing the entire system.  So do we have two separate boards in our state?

Tom Spitznagle (9) (10) (5) (8) (10) (6) (8)

John Milton (0) (10) (5) (10) (3.5) (10) (_)

Question 1:  It will be because of failure of leadership -- especially Governor Pawlenty's "no taxes" religiosity.

Question 3:  Except that if the U of M  is hell-bent on becoming one of top three research universities in the world (which it will never become), vast majority of Minnesota students coming out of secondary ed will never be able to get there -- seems pretty obvious except to those in the u-cocoon___  K-12 and post-secondary education should be treated as one system, not two separate systems.   

Question 4:   And in addition all public post-secondary institutions should be in one MNSCU system -- including the U of M.

 Comments? This discussion is worth very little without candor in two areas:  1.  That average college-bound kids will rarely or never be able to get into U of M -- given its lofty, unrealistic, and self-centered approach, and  2.  The kids who "have" will pull away from the "have-nots," paralleling the growing distance between high and low family income -- I would not give a dime (if I had the choice) to make the U of M another Harvard-Princeton-Stanford-Oxford.  That's pure arrogance.  If the "U" continues to rely on tax-based support from the people of Minnesota, it should be committed to providing education to the people . . . Otherwise, whom does it serve?  (I suppose its faculty, admin staff and corporations that take its research to  make profits)  Fine, but not with my taxes (if I could help it).

Roger Heegaard (9) (1) (9) (9) (5) (5) (5)
This is such a complicated issue.  I don't feel comfortable giving firm answers. What I do know, is that the U of M  needs much more financial support as does K-12, particularly for low income families and students. It does not seem to me we should have to starve either side.

Ray Ayotte (8) (4) (8) (10) (5) (5) (10)

Ellen Brown (10) (3) (7) (_) (10) (10) (5)

Question 3 Not in the sense of being managed/run by one executive/board but yes in the sense of being complementary

Comments:  Seems to me the state needs to fund institutions directly in the areas that do R&D and lead to new business formation, etc. But students, especially undergraduate, should be funded directly to give them choice in college selection.

Bob White (10) (2) (10) (5) (10) (0) (8)

Donald H. Anderson (10) (6) (10) (10) (10) (5) (5)

George Crolick (8) (5) (5) (3) (10) (4) (8)

Peter Hennessey (10) (0) (0) (0) (0) (10) (0)

State support for (State control of) education is totally contrary to any notion of free enterprise. Like it or not, education, too, is just another business, and therefore the State has no business being involved in it. Why? Because State support and State control of anything establishes a monopoly in that thing, and creates all the problems associated with and caused by a monopoly, including run-away costs, and heavily politicized hiring, promotion, curricula, programs, etc.; anything but objective standards for measuring quality of service, performance, customer satisfaction, value of the service, etc.

But much as I believe education should be privatized to correct all the ills identified in this speaker's presentation, and as much as I am convinced that nothing in the proposed solutions will do anything to improve or correct any of the problems, I am not familiar enough with the details of running an education business to offer any specific ideas of my own. I am sure there are plenty of people with actual experience running private schools and colleges, whom you could and should seek out for ideas and advice.

QUESTION 1. They should be weaned off State aid.

Question 2:  The more money you throw at a problem, the less you motivate the recipient to improve the situation. In fact, you are motivating them to continue failing so they'd keep getting even more money. This is why State aid for anything does not work. People on both ends, benefactors and beneficiaries, have an automatic interest in perpetuating the problem, not to solve it. It you put someone on the dole, either as professor or welfare queen, the only way to press for improvement is to make the aid conditional on performance and success, just like in the free market.

QUESTION 3:  There are not two but seven layers in education, each with distinctly different goals and clientele: (1) pre-K / K, (2) elementary, (3) secondary, (4) college, (5) post-graduate, (6) continuing ed, and (7) special ed. There is no reason to integrate into one system them other than to boost some power-mad bureaucrat's ego that he (she) is lord of the universe throughout the entire lifetime of his clients. 

Organization theory says the most effective system is where one boss has 4-10 underlings. You see this in organizations as diverse as the military, businesses, hospitals, etc. But the bigger empire you build, the higher the organizational pyramid of intermediate layers of middle managers and their support staff (paper-pushers). And the more intermediate layers you have, the more top-heavy and inefficient the organization becomes, because the number of managers per actual worker increases as the pyramid grows higher and higher. In addition, the more the managers are isolated from the actual work by the increasing numbers of intermediate layers, the less they see the problems and the successes faced by the actual workers and clients. Curiously, a large number of intermediate levels is considered a positive, because it shows a path for advancement.... (good grief!).

QUESTION 4: This is strictly and exclusively a marketing decision, and in a free market is made based on supply and demand. Who is to say there are too many of this or too many of that? As long as the customers are there, why prevent people from starting or running a business to provide a service that people want?

QUESTION 5a: This too is mostly a marketing decision. To be successful, you provide the service your customers actually want, not what you want to force on them. The decision must also be based on the recognition that each individual has a unique learning style, and the best way to serve the clients of an educational enterprise is to offer whichever mode or mix of modes of delivery suits each one the best. 

The best illustration of how the top-down dictatorship in education fails to deliver is in the field of special education. Common-sense accommodations, whether separate or integrated into the mainstream classroom, cannot be provided except as dictated by a capricious bureaucracy with very little understanding of a particular child's needs. It took State and federal law even to get that much. And precisely because common sense has been replaced by State and federal law, it is nearly impossible to solve a problem within the system if a particular case falls on a borderline between preconceived standards. The State of course offers no help if a parent goes into the private sector, and the parents do not get a tax refund if their child does not attend a State school, even though supposedly the State is required to fund every child's education. And let's not even mention vouchers ...

QUESTION 5b:  The technology is not an education or a business issue. Technology is not an excuse to build yet another bureaucratic empire. Choice of technology is no different than the instructor's choice of textbooks (you DO allow instructors to choose their own textbooks, don't you?), or references or xeroxed notes or field trips or lab equipment or whatever. The specific tools vary with each course and are best left to the instructor to choose. There is no need for a separate "educational unit" or "executive team" for any of these tools and aids.

Roger Wacek (10) (0) (10) (0) (0) (5) (5) 

Robert A. Freeman (5) (5) (8) (7) (5) (6) (7)

Question 1:    Government will have to continue to be part of the solution otherwise college will be unaffordable for many.  However there are other alternatives - e.g. Georgia's "get a B, go for free" program that finances scholarships through its state lottery.

Question 2:  Having more money follow the student will incent colleges to attract students.

Question 3:  Would be smart to do a better job of integrating these.  Follow British model (and of other countries) and make the last two years of high school much more robust and specialized to ensure smoother transition.

Question  5a: Should be up to individual institutions according to what they perceive their target audience is.

Jerry Fruin (7) (4) (10) (3) (10) (9) (3)

1.The statement that "The University of Minnesota can become one of the top three public research universities in the world. That goal is aspirational, audacious, and, I believe, achievable,”'  is unrealistic and probably counter-productive in the current fiscal environment. Minnesota is about 25th in population and GDP among the states. How do the citizens (and run of the mill faculty) rank this in their wish list for: GAMC funding, new Vikings stadium, Mass transit and light rail lines, high speed rail lines,
increased efforts to reduce the numbers of homeless, unemployment benefits and retraining for displaced workers, and cleaner water more conservation efforts?

2.Increasing four year graduation rates at the U is a questionable goal. We talk about the need for continuing education and life-long learning for people in their 40's and 50's but then emphasize the need for teenagers to get their education in 4 years and think it's done. Compared to places like Urbana, West Lafayette, and College Park, the Twin Cities has many job opportunities for part and full time work
(potentially reducing some of the need for student loans) and for internships that might increase the time required to graduate but also provide valuable non classroom learning experiences and workplace skills.

3. On-line education can probably be done with much less overhead and cross subsidies than the current "all things to all people" University models which lack  transparency.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (6) (6) (5) (8) (9) (5) (8)

I liked the old GI Bill where the gov"t money followed the student.  Then each student could decide what educational institution the person wanted to attend.

David Detert (8) (2) (8) (10) (9) (5) (7)

Alan Miller (5) (2) (8) (0) (0) (2) (8)
I think that Bruininks looks at other educational units than the Univ. of MN with a somewhat jaundiced eye, and without a full understanding of K-12, or in particular, the MNSCU system.

Carolyn Ring (7) (5) (8) (10) (8) (8) (5)

Several years ago there was discussion of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities being strictly an upper class and graduate school .  Has there been any study of this possibility?

Dick Angevine (7) (6) (4) (5) (7) (6) (8)

Judith Martin (8) (7) (5) (2) (10) (9) (2)

It is increasingly hard for average citizens to understand the complexity of higher education at the level of a R1 university. Those who understand need to help others get the mission and experience difference between the U of MN and other post-secondary institutions.


The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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