Higher Education: Kaler calls proposed zero percent increase in House ‘very disappointing’ for Minnesota students and families

The Minnesota House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee revealed today its proposal for a zero percent increase in base funding for the University of Minnesota over the next two years.

As part of its biennial budget request for 2016-17, the University has asked for $65.2 million toward tuition affordability as its top priority. The investment would allow the U to hold tuition flat for all Minnesota undergraduate, graduate and professional students system-wide—approximately 53,000 students across five campuses.

U of M President Eric Kaler released the following statement:

“It’s very disappointing that the House is choosing not to prioritize tuition affordability for Minnesota students and their families. If a zero percent increase stands, we are left with no choice but to raise tuition. I don’t want to do that. An increase will impact all of our students, whether they’re enrolled at the Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester or Twin Cities campus. At the same time, we have real costs and increases fueled by inflation, new technology, physical infrastructure maintenance and repairs and other external factors.

“My aim is to rebalance our partnership with the state and return the ‘public’ to Minnesota’s only land-grant, research, public university. I will continue to work with legislators to pass a tuition freeze for our students and their families. Popular support for the U also comes through in our annual opinion research. The latest study, conducted after the November elections, shows that most Minnesotans believe our partnership with the state must be rebalanced.

“Nearly 70 percent of Minnesotans believe the University isn’t getting enough from the state, up more than 4 percentage points from the previous year. And one-fourth of Minnesotans think the U of M should be mostly funded by state support, with a clear majority stating that we should be evenly funded by state and tuition dollars.

 “We’re facing a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and 3.5 percent increase in graduate and professional tuition—despite steady progress in annual cost reductions. In fiscal year 2014, we cut administrative costs by $15 million, and we’re on pace to reduce costs by $90 million over six years.

“This is the time of year when legislative proposals are floated as much for their end-of-session bargaining value as their substance. We remain optimistic that adequate funding for the University of Minnesota, including the resources needed to continue the tuition freeze for students, will receive bipartisan support.”

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