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U of M students face 14 percent tuition hike
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U of M President Robert Bruininks says the U needs to ask students to pay 14 percent more for tuition next year, to help cover its budget. (MPR file photo)
University of Minnesota undergraduates will likely pay 14 percent more for tuition next fall. University President Robert Bruininks proposed the increase and other budget measures to the Board of Regents Friday. Bruininks also announced a new scholarship program. Officials are calling it the largest effort in university history to raise scholarship support for students.

Minneapolis, Minn. — Fall 2004 will mark the fourth consecutive year of double-digit tuition increases for U of M undergraduates. President Bruininks says the increase is due to the residual effects of the 15 percent funding cut the U sustained last year in the two-year state budget. He says the loss in revenue, combined with university expenses, adds up to a $70 million shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1.

"We have new levels of debt, and operating expense on buildings, investments in technology, important upgrades to our classrooms and a range of other things we have to address," says Bruininks.

The largest contributor to the U's shortfall is employee wage increases, worth $25 million. Bruininks says the university's approach to plugging its $70 million shortfall includes reductions in operating and administrative costs. But $51 million of the shortfall will be made up by students.

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Image Virat Madia

Bruininks says Twin Cities undergraduates will pay an average of 14 percent more in tuition and fees. And students at the Morris, Duluth and Crookston campuses will pay 13 percent more.

"These rising costs are troubling, they're difficult, challenging. I think if they continue we have something to worry about as a state and a nation," says Bruininks. "But I would still argue that there is no better single investment a young person or working adult can make in his or her future."

Bruininks says to soften the blow, the U's overall budget for 2005 will include increases to its financial aid program for low income students.

Additionally, Bruininks says a new President's Scholarship Match fund is being established. He says the university foundation is charged with raising $150 million over the next five years from alumni and other donors. Interest income from the endowment will be matched by the university through its operating budget.

Bruininks says currently, only one of five undergraduates has a scholarship. He says the goal of the new fund is to increase the number of student scholarships by at least 50 percent over the next three to five years.

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Image Increase is "outrageous"

Not surprisingly, students are pretty happy about the possibility of free money.

"Scholarships have made a huge difference my life personally, and I think it hundreds of thousands of kids across the nation depend on these," says Virat Madia, a sophomore at the U. "I know friends that just didn't go to college because they couldn't get the scholarship and couldn't get the money. That's devastating to one's future."

Starting this fall, a year's tuition and fees at the U's Twin Cities campuses will cost $7,500. That's an increase of $915 over fall 2003.

Katie Jungkunz, a freshman at the U in the Twin Cites, calls the 14 percent tuition "outrageous."

Despite the increase, university officials say relatively speaking, the U is a bargain. It ranks about in the middle of the Big Ten in terms of tuition.

Still, Twin Cities undergraduate admissions director Wayne Sigler says the U is at a disadvantage when it comes to scholarships. According to U.S. News & World Report, the U is tied for last place among Big Ten schools in the percentage of scholarship dollars awarded to new freshmen.

Sigler says the scholarship endowment will be a powerful tool in recruiting talented students to the University of Minnesota.

"The type of students that we attract here have many, many alternatives. And our intent with this scholarship effort is to keep the university accessible and affordable to the top students in the state of Minnesota," says Sigler.

University officials say while the scholarship endowment won't be up to full earnings for another few years, there will be some money available to students this fall.

The Board of Regents will vote on the president's budget recommendations at its June meeting.

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