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 Response Page - Kaler  Interview -      

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


Eric Kaler, President of the University of Minnesota, recognizes the challenges facing the University due to declining state support. He shares his vision for how the University can become a national leader despite the contraction in its funding.  

He advocates targeting those academic areas where he believes the University can excel. He considers it especially important to avoid onerous tuition increases and opposes increasing out-of-state enrollment simply to take advantage of the higher tuition available from such students. He advocates committing the necessary resources for faculty to make innovative use of technology.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by President Kaler. Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readersí zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Aim to be among the best. (9.0 average response) Minnesotans should support a goal that the University of Minnesota--a critical contributor to the state's economy--be ranked among the best universities in the nation.

2. Target areas of excellence. (7.9 average response) Instead of treating all its schools and divisions the same, the University of Minnesota should target those academic areas where it can excel.

3. Slow tuition increases. (7.3 average response) State appropriations to the U of M should be increased so that tuition doesn't increase faster than the rate of inflation.

4. Encourage use of new technology. (8.5 average response) The U of M should commit the necessary resources for faculty to make innovative use of new technology.

5. Focus on state residents. (6.0 average response) Unlike some other universities, the U of M should not seek to enrich its income by enrolling a larger percentage of non-residents, who pay higher tuition.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. (5.1 average response) Because of legitimate needs in other areas of the state budget, along with enormous difficulties in increasing state revenue, the U of M shouldn't expect a larger proportion of the state budget.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Aim to be among the best.







2. Target areas of excellence.







3. Slow tuition increases.







4. Encourage use of new technology.







5. Focus on state residents.







6. Expect limit to share of budget.







Individual Responses:

Bert LeMunyon  (5)  (0)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

1. Aim to be among the best. Being ranked among the best is more important to the administration and faculty than to the students.  Once the students enter the working world, their performance is what will count, not the rating of their alma mater.

2. Target areas of excellence. The U should have the same obligation to all of its students to provide an excellent education.

3. Slow tuition increases. The U needs to find ways to reduce costs while maintaining excellence.  The teaching load should increase and better use of their talents via summer school, etc., should be sought.

4. Encourage use of new technology. Only to the extent that it improves student learning and controls cost increases.

5. Focus on state residents. Because the U is supported by the taxpayers of Minnesota, its primary mission should be to students from Minnesota.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. That's why the U needs to concentrate on containing and even reducing costs.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (10)  (7.5)  (5)  (7.5)  (2.5)  (5)

1. Aim to be among the best. That is a very realistic and desirable goal.

2. Target areas of excellence. We need to excel in all areas, but excelling in a given area when the opportunity is ripe is also acceptable.

3. Slow tuition increases. I don't like seeing a public employee pushing for more appropriations as the only available answer. A little more business support wouldn't hurt either.

4. Encourage use of new technology. That should have always been part of a successful strategy.

5. Focus on state residents. It goes along with the reason for striving to make the U of M a respected institution.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. It depends on whether the U is going to continue to support the "War on Drugs" that is sucking so much of our resources into the prison system rather than the education system.

Ray Ayotte  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)  (0)

Michael  _________  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)  (7.5)  (5)  (10)

2. Target areas of excellence. At the graduate level the U should decide for those majors where it is not a leader, whether to spend the money to become (a) leader or drop that graduate program. For faculty, (those) not teaching a full load most semesters should be moved to part-time (or) adjunct status, with a corresponding reduction in salary and benefits. The U needs to end providing defined benefit pension plans for new employees and cap benefits for existing employees and faculty. The U should shift more of the costs of health care and other benefits to the employees and faculty, then use those (dollars) to slow tuition (or) increase (or) improve its facilities     I did a little research on salaries at the U. There are 150-180 employees making over $175,000/ year. Many of those position(s) were administrative. That (seems) like a high salary for administrators to me.

4. Encourage use of new technology. The faculty of the U needs to be committed to improving the quality of the education it provides and reducing costs at the same time.

5. Focus on state residents. The University should seek to have balance of resident and non-resident and foreign students. Not for the higher tuition non-residents and foreign students pay, but to provide diverse student body.   Some students start out as non-residents but by the time they leave the U they are paying instate tuition. I do not know if the U tracks this or not.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. The demands on the State government budget (are) growing much faster than revenues. For the past 20 years businesses have been learning to do more with less. The U needs to learn to do the same thing

Jim Olson  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)

Chris Brazelton  (10)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (10)  (2.5)  (2.5)

1. Aim to be among the best. Especially if we want the resident students to move into our local economy and keep our businesses among the best in the nation.

Jeff Spartz  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (2.5)  (10)

3. Slow tuition increases. Sadly, while state support of the University is essential to our future well being and lending to students who can't afford the University out-of-pocket is absolutely necessary, I fear it tends to insulate the University from the necessity to be pushing productivity improvements to the extent possible. Since I was a student at the University, the cost of college has risen three to four percent per year in real terms regardless of anything else going on in our economy. At some point college will be completely unavailable except to the well off if colleges don't develop a solution to this problem. Other than pursuing focused academic excellence for the University, successfully addressing this problem could be President Kahler's legacy accomplishment.

5. Focus on state residents. Non-resident students may (be) a key source of workers for the state as we hit the worker availability wall when the baby boomers have retired.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. Although, I agree with the statement, itís a terrible shame that we are not adequately investing enough public dollars in our future through public higher education. With the social costs of the baby boomer retirements (largely increased Medicaid costs) and the parallel reduction in state revenues, we will be struggling for a long time to balance the state budget. There will simply not be much in the way of new revenues to pour into the University. Improving productivity at the University will be imperative.

Ralph Brauer  (10)  (2.5)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (2.5)

1. Aim to be among the best. It is no accident that as the U of M budget has suffered so has Minnesota's quality of life.

2. Target areas of excellence. Presidents have been saying this for half a century.  Part of the University's problem is this kind of thinking. To be a great University means you need to be very, very good in core subject areas. Being mediocre in English and first in nanotechnology is not a great university.  There is one area the U of M needs to target in terms of excellence--athletics. Do we need million dollar coaches and fancy new facilities when the rest of the budget suffers?

3. Slow tuition increases. This is a no-brainer, but that is unfortunately what passes for a legislator these days.

4. Encourage use of new technology. This was another area we have fallen behind in--but it is not the University's fault (see no-brainers above).

5. Focus on state residents. Why not? One overlooked side of this is that non-residents bring diversity to the University.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. The U of M proportion has declined.  Restoring funding to the levels it was before the Pawlenty administration would be a first step.

Bruce A. Lundeen  (2.5)  (5)  (2.5)  (5)  (5)  (10)

1. Aim to be among the best. I question the value of "universal" higher education and the productivity levels of University faculty.

2. Target areas of excellence. It seems as though the skills needed in the workplace are not necessarily those taught by a four-year institution.

3. Slow tuition increases. The University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus has to trim costs, be it in faculty and staff costs, buildings, or wherever funding goes.

4. Encourage use of new technology. I am not sure the faculty create more innovative uses of new technology than the industries involved in new technologies themselves.

Dave Broden  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (7.5)  (0)

1. Aim to be among the best. Minnesota has a history of a position of strength in all types of education and particularly in a leadership position or recognition of in-depth excellence in many disciplines in the U of M System. This capability at the U is key to projecting the strength of Minnesota as well as confirming the quality of life in Minnesota. The U must be recognized focus by citizens across Minnesota as a contributor to the state capability and vision for future.

2. Target areas of excellence. Selecting and focusing on key schools, departments, and specific technologies or topical areas as the point of excellence is a key asset to address. The selection must leverage past strengths, consider value for the future (invest), and do this via linking with private and public organizations. The targets must seek to serve the citizens of Minnesota --particularly the students and to seek to retain those who graduate to jobs and opportunity in Minnesota.

3. Slow tuition increases. The appropriation/tuition ratio should be a key measure of affordability but not the only metric. Other factors of affordability must be considered as well as how the academic program is structured, what aid is available,  opportunities for student employment etc.

4. Encourage use of new technology. The use of technology in Education is a must and a priority--however technology just for technologyís sake is not the answer-- the use of technology to complement class interaction and dialogue and include increasing emphasis on student and student/professor/other schools, etc., collaboration Is perhaps equally important to the introduction and expansion of technology use- an important focus must be how to use technology to aid education while also expanding the collaboration among class participants and not only the U but with other Universities, centers of excellence, etc.

5. Focus on state residents. Our Goal must remain to educate Minnesota first but we also must evolve the U and continue the U strength in attracting students from across the US who wish to study at the Uís centers of excellence as well as a very broad mix of international students. If tuition incentives will enable this mix it should be considered.

6. Expect limit to share of budget. The topic of more funds must shift from more funds to what is the value received. The U of M must sell the value for added costs on the specific programs that will be enhanced and how that will strengthen Minnesota--that will then transfer to statewide support and get legislators revisiting the need and the cost.

Don Anderson  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (7.5)  (5)

Tom King  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Here's one suggestion, Dr. Kaler:  quit paying so much for major sports programs and coaches.

Also, it seems to me that the administrative positions are far too highly compensated.

What's the most important component of a university? Faculty who can teach. Pay them well first and make some major cuts in the rest of the budget.

Kevin Edberg  (8)  (8)  (8)  (7)  (10)  (4)

Michael Miller  (10)  (3)  (10)  (9)  (10)  (1)

Al Quie  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)

13 to 1 seems like a good return on expenditures. It is worth starting to pay sales tax on clothing to finance the University better. It would be interesting to see what "return" Minnesota gets on what some call "tax expenditures" at the Mall of America, meaning the sales tax on clothing which we do not charge. Opponents say the sales tax on clothing would specifically hurt business at the Mall. My view is that the high tuition at the University and the high corporate income tax hurts Minnesota much more than sales taxes. But then, for politicians seeking reelection, a bad tax (high tuition and corporate income tax) is better than a good tax (sales tax) that is not accepted yet.

Chuck Lutz  (10)  (9)  (10)  (9)  (9)  (1)

Bright Dornblaser  (10)  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)

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

Wayne Jennings  (10)  (10)  (8)  (10)  (9)  (4)

The U needs to make a greater commitment to e-learning which could increase enrollment, better serve factions, and increase revenue.

Bert Press  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)  (10)  (10)

Leanne Kunze  (10)  (9)  (8)  (8)  (7)  (8)

William Kuisle  (7)  (10)  (1)  (2)  (2)  (10)

Carolyn Ring  (10)  (8)  (10)  (10)  (7)  (3)

John Adams  (10)  (10)  (8)  (8)  (3)  (4)

1. Aim to be among the best. It already is--among public research universities.  See comment below.
2. Target areas of excellence. Although not exclusively; the U has obligations to the state.

4. Encourage use of new technology. The U has done pretty well on this measure.
5. Focus on state residents. We'd be in big trouble if the u didn't recruit from far and wide. If it were up to me, I'd reduce the premium charged to out-of-state students.
6. Expect limit to share of budget. This point would be easier to handle if the state legislature distinguished between "investment" and "spending".
7. Comment:(1) It is useful to distinguish between "public research universities" and "private research universities" when we discuss ambitions to be among the best.  They are different kinds of institutions with different missions, traditions, sources of support and mixes of activities that they are obligated to undertake. (2) One topic that did not arise during the discussion with Pres. Kaler is the ways that present structures and HR practices at the U (and at MinnesotaSCU, for that matter) make it hard to allocate resources efficiently in order to carry out mission with maximum efficiency and effectiveness.

Arvonne Fraser  (9)  (8)  (10)  (9)  (9)  (2)

It's a disgrace that this state has been disinvesting in the U for years.  We don't want it to become just a rich kidsí university or rich kids plus scholarships.  How about ordinary Minnesota high school graduates?  If we want this to be a great state, we have to have a great, well funded university.

Lyall Schwarzkopf  (8)  (7)  (5)  (8)  (4)  (6)

Gregg Iverson  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

You spend too much money. Get lean and smart.

Tom Swain  (10)  (10)  (10)  (9)  (2)  (1)

Paul and Ruth Hauge  (9)  (5)  (8)  (8)  (6)  (5)


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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