Tuition increase likely

by Elizabeth Cook

Tuition will be on the rise again if the budget proposal presented to the University’s Board of Regents on Friday is approved.

University President Bob Bruininks presented his $192.3 million biennial budget request Friday at the monthly Regents meeting in Crookston. The plan calls for tuition increases of 4.5 percent in both 2008 and 2009.

If the board approves the request next month, the Minnesota Legislature will consider it when it reconvenes in January.

According to the plan, tuition increases would generate $45.9 million, while the state would kick in $123.4 million. Bruininks said savings and cutbacks within the University could account for another $23 million.

University spokesman Daniel Wolter said regents responded positively to the proposal but will ask questions before making a decision. One is how the budget would affect students, he said.

Regent Clyde Allen said he hopes the increase will affect students positively, since the proposed tuition increase is the lowest in years.

Allen said the request is framed around sustaining quality at the University while staying competitive and also enhancing Minnesota’s future.

“We have to make new investments to stay competitive,” he said.

The University will also do its part to cut costs, he said, through increased efficiency.

“Small changes can equal $23 million,” Allen said.

Reallocating money within the University will take a lot of hard work, he said.

Bruininks gave an exact breakdown of what the requested money would be used for:

  • $69.6 million would increase faculty and staff pay.
  • $31.5 million would fund facilities operations and maintenance.
  • $26.4 million would expand educational programs, including a new honors program, writing initiatives, library investments, the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and programs of diversity, specifically American Indian studies.
  • $19.1 million would expand health workforce and clinical science programs.
  • $18.7 million would fund compensation increases based on merit.
  • $11.5 million would go toward medical devices programs in science and engineering.
  • $8.4 million would fund environment, agricultural systems and renewable energies.
  • $7.1 million would improve technology and data security systems.

Underwriter finalized

At the meeting, the University chose New York-based Lehman Brothers Inc. as an underwriter for the state-supported stadium bonds.

Local investment banking firms RBC Capital Markets, as a partnership with Wells Fargo and Piper Jaffray, submitted proposals that were not selected.

Choosing a nonlocal firm was considered “controversial,” Wolter said. The decision was publicly criticized by the firms the University passed over.

Allen said the decision was based on criteria, including reliability and decisions about the University’s credit rating, that Lehman Brothers fulfilled.

“I think it’s been a very, very thorough process,” he said.

RBC Capital Markets said in an e-mail that though they were not chosen, they are proud of their relationship with the University and “wish them continued good luck in the future.”