U of M president makes plea for increased new state funding in House

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler testified before the Minnesota House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee today, urging policymakers to increase new funding for the U of M over the next two years.

The following are excerpts from Kaler’s remarks to committee members as they weigh the higher education omnibus bill:

“I’m deeply disappointed that you have decided to provide zero increase in new funding for the University, which is, in many ways, the heartbeat of the economy of Minnesota and the wellspring of creativity and culture in the state.

“Let me quickly outline what a zero percent increase will look like for a typical Minnesota high school graduate who is now one of our students, or about 71 percent of all of our undergraduate students on our Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and Twin Cities campuses. It will look like a 3 percent increase in undergraduate tuition for Minnesota-resident students on all five our campuses, and about a 3.5 percent increase for our graduate students, depending on their discipline or field of study. … Depending on which of our campuses a student attends, that could amount to between an additional $2,100 and $2,600 over four years.

“In our current request, your zero increase proposal would stall health care and medical research investments, and would strike a blow to our efforts to improve our Medical School.

“Higher education is an investment by the student and her family in her future –and in our state’s future. … Some members of this committee have asked why we need the state’s partnership to freeze tuition. That is, why we can’t do it on our own? The fact is, we have already done our part to keep the lid on tuition. Through our reallocations — and with your partnership — we have reduced the need for tuition increases.

“For each $15 million we’ve reallocated from administrative costs, we’ve reduced the need for a tuition increase by 2.1 percent. Over the past two years, we’ve redirected $39 million of administrative costs to core mission activities. But for these reallocations, we’d need to generate 2.1 percent more revenue, either from students’ tuition or state funding.

“Each year, we have new, additional and necessary – mostly inflationary — costs, just like any Minnesota household would.”

If fully funded ($704.6 million) by 2017, the U of M’s request would get the institution back to slightly above the level the state provided in 2008 ($684.4 million), without adjusting for inflation.

For more information on the U’s 2015 legislative request, visit govrelations.umn.edu.

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