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Higher Ed Takes a Hit
By Patty Marsicano
January 23, 2001
Part of MPR's online coverage of Gov. Ventura's budget proposal.
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Gov. Ventura's proposed budget for higher education has left the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Systems sorely disappointed. The leaders of those institutions say they won't even be able to keep up with inflation, let alone proceed with their plans for growth, if Ventura's budget goes through.

The higher education budget includes the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU), and the Higher Education Services Office (HESO). It also includes the Mayo Foundation and the Higher Education Facilities Authority.

The governor's 2002-03 budget increases $126 million over FY 2000-01, an increase of 4.8 percent. This recommendation includes a net increase of $99.2 million in new initiatives from the General Fund, and $7 million from the Workforce Development Fund, to support higher education in Minnesota. Highlights of this proposal are:
  • $40 million to the University of Minnesota and $40 million to MnSCU to support inflation adjustments for faculty and staff compensation. Traditionally, state appropriations cover two-thirds of instructional costs, with the remainder coming from tuition.
  • $8 million from the General Fund in FY 2002 to stabilize core funding for the university's Medical School. The governor also recommends that $8 million be appropriated in FY 2003 to the Department of Health, as a contingent appropriation, for the Medical School. This would expand the Medical and Research Education fund, established with one-time tobacco payments.
  • $14 million to increase financial aid for low-income independent, non-traditional, and part-time students. Many of these people are under-employed, and are part of the 40 percent of Minnesota's workforce earning less than $10 per hour. The assessment rates on independent students' income will be reduced 33 percent when calculating eligibility for a Minnesota State Grant.
  • $11 million to increase the period a student is eligible to receive a state grant. Current policy allows eligibility for four years of full-time enrollment. This proposal increases the eligibility until a student receives a baccalaureate degree, extending financial aid for an estimated 2,400 students.
  • $5 million to allow the state grant program to recognize individual tuition and fees when calculating the cost of attendance. This will allow the program to account for common practices, such as the banding of tuition schedules, special tuition or assessments for certain classes or programs, and technology fees.
  • $4 million to increase grants to colleges to work with families and students that have low participation rates, to develop the interest and capacity to participate in higher education.

    - Budget executive summary

    THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU) came up well below what they were looking for when Gov. Ventura announced the higher education part of his budget.

    "I am recommending a 4.5-percent increase in funding that I believe will allow higher education institutions to continue existing programs responsibly," Ventura said.

    That 4.5 percent falls well below the 18-percent increase sought by the U of M, and the 22-percent increase sought by MnSCU.

    MnSCU Chancellor Morrie Anderson says the governor's budget would force MnSCU to raise tuition 11 percent a year, or lay off 800 to 1,000 faculty and staff, and cut programs. He says he gives the budget a "D" for disappointing.

    "The fact of the matter is that we have some significant needs in higher education in Minnesota. We are at probably the most prosperous time in the state's history. We have identified, any number of times, the need for expanding educational opportunity for our people, and we're not going to do it with this budget," Anderson says.

    The governor opted to increase financial aid by $30 million, instead of focusing on system investments to increase competition among schools for their students.

    St. Cloud State President Roy Saigo supports increased financial aid but worries about the impact dramatically higher tuition would have on student access.

    "I am concerned that by raising tuition, we're going to limit the opportunity for education to a sector of society that we need to help encourage and support and nurture," Saigo said.

    Saigo also says the governor's budget would hurt St. Cloud State's efforts to recruit and retain faculty in highly competitive areas like computer science.

    University of Minnesota President Mark Yudof says he's shocked that the U's appropriation was so low and that it doesn't even keep up with inflation. The University had wanted to offer staff and faculty a three-percent raise, but Yudof says this budget would provide only about a two-percent increase.

    The governor's budget would allocate $8 million to the university's medical school in the first year of the two-year cycle. Another $8 million from the state tobacco endowment in the second year would eliminate the med school's current deficit.

    Yudof acknowledged the importance of balancing the books, but complained that the budget provides no money for economic development such as turning out more nurses and pharmacists. He'd also like to see more funding for faculty pay, and for the university's skyrocketing health-insurance premiums.

    "We will fight against this budget as actively as possible," Yudof said . " (We will) Ask our 300,000 alums to weigh in, the business community that supported economic development summit, we'll ask all those to participate. I'm not whining because we took one small step forward and it wasn't large enough. I'm whining because we took one giant step backwards."

    Yudof says this is the third-lowest budget increase for the university in a non-recession year since World War II.

    The chair of the House Higher Education Finance Committee, Rep.Peggy Leppik, says the House Republican Caucus has yet to fashion a higher education budget of its own.

    "As a caucus, we have come to no decisions at all. I still have yet to present a proposal to the caucus, so we are a long way from making any decisions on higher education financing," she said.

    MnSCU and the U of M officials say there's a long session ahead and they're both prepared for intense lobbying.

    Patty Marsicano covers higher education issues for Minnesota Public Radio. Reach her via e-mail at

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