By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The University of Minnesota is now defending itself against allegations of wasteful spending.

Those claims stem from a Wall Street Journal investigation saying that the university failed to keep close tabs on its payroll as student tuition spiked.

It has Minnesota lawmakers looking for answers from the U. The report said hundreds of administrators are making six-figure salaries, allegations that the new university president Eric Kaler says are “incomplete” and “inaccurate.”

Still, it’s irritating to Minnesota lawmakers faced with a $1 billion budget deficit. Kaler promises a swift review.

“We will have it as soon as possible,” Kaler said. “We will share it broadly. And then we will act on it.”

Kaler says the Journal over-counted the number of administrators and salaries, based on inaccurate information provided by the U.

He says the university’s research budget is up 40 percent, and half of new administrative salaries are paid by private funding. The U has lost $120 million in state budget cuts since 2008.

But the negative attention comes at the worst possible time, just as the legislature takes up the U’s request for $1 billion in funding.

And top lawmakers aren’t happy.

“That is not a place — the front page of the Wall Street Journal — where we want our flagship university,” Sen. Tom Bakk said.

Democratic leaders fired off a letter to Kaler asking him to respond to the allegations in detail.

“We take that article, and how the university responds, and the accountability and oversight that regents have over our president and our university very seriously,” Bakk said.

State lawmakers say the university’s problems began long before Kaler took office. Now it’s Kaler promising to reduce costs.

“That is not an excuse,” Kaler said. “I am privileged to be the president of the University of Minnesota. This is my problem to fix.”

Kaler is simultaneously making a pitch for state aid at the Capitol. He’s proposing to freeze tuition for the next two years if the legislature provides $42 million in funding.

That’s included in the U’s $1 billion budget request.


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