Kaler Makes Case for Investment in U of M
Dr. Eric Kaler, president of the University of Minnesota, addressed a combined assembly of Rotarians from the west metro area on Jan. 29, presenting a wide-ranging case for increased support from the state of Minnesota. The event was hosted by the Rotary Club of Golden Valley at the Golden Valley Golf & Country Club and was attended by approximately 70 members of Rotary clubs from St. Louis Park, Minnetonka, Hopkins and others.
Kaler, noted as only the second alumnus to rise to the position of president at the U of M, spoke about efficiency measures, cost of tuition, state financial support, the impact of the U on Minnesota's economy and the initiatives that this year's budget proposal and funding request would support.
But the president, in just his second year, spent much of his presentation "telling the story" of the university and its support from the state over the last decade or so. Since 2000, Kaler said, the university's student enrollment has increased by 9,000 students (16 percent), while the number of staff has increased by just three percent. Meanwhile, federal and state support for higher education has declined nationwide by 23 percent since 1999. In Minnesota, state support has declined by 48 percent in the same time period, knocking the state from above average higher ed support among states to well below average.
Kaler's argument for increased funding from the state of Minnesota is the economic impact of the U. He noted the legislative districts represented by those present and listed the number of doctors, dentists, lawyers and others who have graduated from the U of M and who now live in those districts. He also noted the number of university employees living in the districts. Kaler said the economic benefit to the state is $86 billion dollars, equal to a 13-to-1 return on investment.
According to the U of M website, Kaler took office July 1, 2011. He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University in 1982 and received his undergraduate degree from the California Institute of Technology in 1978. Before coming to the “U,” Kaler served from 2007 to 2011 as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y. Previously he was dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering. He also taught at the University of Washington.
Eric Kaler and his wife, Karen, have two adult sons.
Photo, left to right: Golden Valley Rotary President David Hutchinson, Dr. Eric Kaler, former state legislator Peggy Leppik, Minnetonka Rotary President Bob Hersman, St. Louis Park Sunrise Rotary President Kevin Locke.