Tuition increase included in proposed U budgetby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks unveiled his budget request for the Minnesota Legislature today. Next year, Bruininks will ask lawmakers for nearly $150 million in new money. He says the move is critical to keep the university strong. But some say it's going to be tough for the U to get an increase in state funding during tough economic times.
Minneapolis — President Robert Bruininks describes his request for an increase of $141 million in state funding as modest.
"we're asking the state to help us with three big things. And we're promising to roll up our sleeves and take care of the rest," Bruininks said.
Here are the three big things Bruininks wants the state to pay for:
- A 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff in both of the next two years, for $95 million.
- Funding for more student scholarships, especially students who come from middle income homes, for $16 million.
- More funding to enhance research capacity, at $30 million.
But U of M regent Dean Johnson, who spent 25 years in the state Legislature, told Bruininks he faces an uphill battle in asking for an increase in funding, because the state faces tough economic times.
Johnson says the only way the request might be granted is if the university convinces lawmakers the extra funding is a necessary investment in the school's future.
"what we need to do is take the long-term approach," said Johnson. "If we take the short-term approach, we will fail at this. We need to convince the Legislature and the governor that this is an investment in our economy."
Those type of increases haven't been unheard of in recent years. In the current biennial budget, the U of M received a $137 million increase in its state budget. However, that reflects a $12 million decrease that was imposed by the Legislature.
Bruininks is also proposing $26 million in cuts over the next two years. And he wants to raise tuition by 4.5 percent increase in each of the next two years. Tuition at the U now stands at $10,000 per year.
An increase in tuition is likely to raise the ire of students and parents who've been dealing with a series of tuition hikes in recent years. But Dustin Norman, a student representative to the Board of Regents, says things could be worse.
"I won't say that I'm pleased, but I'll say thank you to the university for keeping it low. It could have been so much higher," said Norman.
If the university doesn't get the increase it's requesting, Bruininks says the increase in tuition could be higher, and there could be more cuts.
"I will probably bring a recommendation over the 4.5 percent [tuition increase]. I will probably bring a recommendation to cut more deeply."
Bruininks won't know for certain what he'll need to do until the end of the legislative session next spring. In the meantime, the regents will vote on whether to approve Bruinink's plan at their next meeting in October.
- All Things Considered, 09/12/2008, 5:20 p.m.