The catastrophe in Minnesota higher education funding

Minnesota state funding for its flagship university has plummeted nearly 50% as a fraction of the total budget, according to an analysis of budget documents from the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota.

In 2009, University funding made up 4.28% of the state budget but in 2017 it made up only 2.39%, a drop of 44%.


Minnesota state funding for the University of Minnesota system, as a percent of budget.

During the same time period, state tax revenues increased from $16.5 billion to $23.9 billion, an increase of 45%.

In 2017, the Minnesota Daily reported that legislators representing rural districts have shifted their support from the flagship University of Minnesota system to the Minnesota State system.

The University of Minnesota has 5 4-year campuses throughout the state, but the largest of the institutions is at the center of the Minneapolis-St. Paul (Twin Cities) metro area. The Twin Cities dominate the economics and demographics of Minnesota, representing over 60% of the state’s population and much of its industry.

Rural, and largely Republican, representatives may question why they should be sending hundreds of millions of dollars to the University system–with most of that going to the Twin Cities campus. The University of Minnesota–Twin Cities has made a push to become a more elite University, garnering more applications, research funding and out-of-state students. Previous University president Bob Bruininks had a campaign to make the University one of the top 3 public research universities. In light of recent political developments, perhaps the University would have been better served keeping its focus closer to home.

The Minnesota State system, in contrast has a total of 54 campuses throughout the state with mixture of 2- and 4-year campuses. The State system has also seen its funding decrease as a fraction of state budget, from 4.13% to 2.81%, representing a large, but less dramatic 32% decrease.

Unfortunately for the University system, the situation could get much worse. Public opinion has diverged sharply. Republicans across the country have become much more skeptical of universities in the past couple of years, according to Pew Research.


For universities in states with a roughly equal political divide, like Minnesota, the decline in support from half of the electorate will continue to translate into lower funding from the state.

In Minnesota Daily’s coverage of the 2017 budget cycle, Larry Jacobs of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University said:

This is one of the worst legislative sessions for the University in some time

The decline in state funding has put pressure on students. 2009 was the last year the University got more money from state funding than tuition. Since then, tuition revenue has continued to increase, as state funding has faltered.


University of Minnesota Revenue from tuition and state funding in 2008 dollars.

Tuition revenue will probably continue to go up. University president Eric Kaler is in favor of higher tuition for out-of-state students.

From my recollection as a student at the University, nearly all the in-state students I knew were from the Twin Cities area. Outreach to rural areas is critical for the future of the University’s state funding.

It appears the University system is at least attempting to bridge the gap. In a recent PR push, the University is attempting to highlight the contributions and connections of the University system to the state at large.

The logo screen featured at the end of the video puts the campuses in alphabetical order. They use the ‘Twin Cities’ moniker rather than Minneapolis-St. Paul, which puts the flagship campus last of the 5.


The Twin Cities campus

Watch the whole video here:


Excel Workbook Analysis:








Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s