U of M President thanks Senate for proposed higher education funding

The Minnesota Senate today announced its budget targets for the next two years, including a proposed $205 million more for higher education.

“I’d like to thank the Senate for recognizing the importance of higher education as they determine their direction for the next biennium,” said University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler. “The state’s flagship public research university needs continued state investment to keep tuition affordable.”

The University is requesting an increase of $148.2 million for four priority areas over the next two years, with tuition affordability ($65.2 million) at the top of the list. The investment would allow the U to freeze tuition for Minnesota undergraduate, graduate and professional students—approximately 53,000 students across all five campuses.

“My top priority this session is to ensure more of Minnesota’s best and brightest students have access to the type of excellent, research-focused education that only the U provides in our state,” Kaler said.

Earlier this week, the House proposed an increase of $53 million for higher education. After the state budget forecast was announced in late February, Gov. Dayton adjusted his budget to provide a $288.4 million more for higher education.

Kaler estimates that continued state investment will save Minnesota undergraduate students an average of $2,100 to $2,600 over four years. And for resident graduate and medical students, holding tuition flat will reduce the average cost of a degree by $1,600 to $5,000.

“It’s crucial that we work together to invest in our state’s future highly skilled workforce,” Kaler added. “Two-thirds of U of M graduates stay here and build lifelong careers in Minnesota . They are the state’s talent pool.”

The three remaining areas of the U’s budget request include:

• $55.5 million for Healthy Minnesota and the Medical School, to strengthen health care delivery in the state, address workforce shortages and strengthen U research to address the most pressing health care needs. The initiative would also expand education and training programs in dentistry, mental health and geriatrics—particularly in Greater Minnesota and underserved communities. The medical school investment includes Gov. Dayton’s plan to help recruit and hire 50 top tenure track faculty medical researchers over the next eight years, creating medical discovery teams. The plan would also help secure new research grants from funding agencies.

• $15 million for the Facility Condition Improvement Strategy, which creates a more predictable funding stream to maintain the U’s 29 million square feet of infrastructure. In exchange for this general fund allocation, the U would decrease its Higher Education Asset Preservation and Restoration (HEAPR) capital request.

• $12.5 million for Vibrant Communities, to improve the environmental health and safety impacts of mining and examine related economic development opportunities, and promote economic prosperity in Minnesota communities.

“We will continue to push for more funding in our discussions with House and Senate leadership and the Governor’s Office in the coming weeks,” Kaler said.

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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