Tuition hikes may be small

The University’s two-year budget request includes 5.5 percent tuition increases.

Kari Petrie

After four years of double-digit tuition increases, University President Bob Bruininks said he does not predict those types of increases in the next two years.

Last week, the Board of Regents approved the two-year budget request to the state, which included a 5.5 percent tuition increase for each of those years. Tuition has increased by 56 percent since the 2001-02 school year, Bruininks said.

Although unexpected state budget cuts could further increase tuition, Bruininks said he does not think it will change a lot more than 5.5 percent.

“I can’t see us having the increases we’ve had in the past,” he said.

The Legislature will have to approve the University’s request during its next session, which starts Jan. 4.

Peter Smith, a graphics design senior, said he understands why University tuition had to grow in the past. But he said he sees the lower increase for next year as a sign the economy is recovering.

“Things are starting to level out,” he said.

Between classes and working, Spanish and global studies senior Laurel Anderson said, she doesn’t have time to think about the growing cost of college.

“Education is always grossly underfunded,” she said.

Britta Anderson, a continuing education student studying science, said she thinks it’s great that the University tries to keep tuition increases down.

“The less the increase, the more students can afford college,” she said.

Bonding bill

Bruininks said it is essential for the Legislature to provide money for construction projects in the upcoming session.

The University is working with other groups that benefit from the bonding bill to get it passed, said University lobbyist Donna Peterson.

Groups from Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Northstar line, the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and others are working to guarantee funding for new building projects and repair costs.

The groups are focused on getting the bill passed early in the session so it doesn’t get lost in the mix of other legislation, Peterson said.

But the groups haven’t met since the Nov. 2 election, so they haven’t chosen a plan of action, she said.

Peterson said she is hopeful, yet cautious, the bonding bill will pass.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” she said.

Higher Education Finance Committee member Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said the bonding bill will be successful.

“It definitely will pass, without a doubt,” he said.

But Nornes said he did not know what final amount of money the construction projects will receive.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, said she was also confident the bill would pass.

“My guess is that it will be a better session for the University anyway,” she said.

Other legislative goals

Bruininks said passing a stadium bill is a “minor goal” for the upcoming session, and it is a distant third to the bonding bill and the two-year budget.

He said the bill should create a partnership between the University and the state to pay for the stadium.

“It’s important,” he said. “But it will not compromise our academic initiatives.”

Mike Dean, grassroots coordinator for the University Legislative Network, said his group wants to gain University support in the Legislature.

“The state has really been backtracking from its commitment to higher education,” he said. “We’re working to reverse that trend.”

The network is organizing legislative briefing events in January for those interested, he said.

Bruininks said a change in the party makeup of House members could affect how the University fares at the Legislature.

The election results created a 68-66 divide of Republicans and Democrats in the House, with the Republicans losing 13 seats.

The shift could change the way representatives conduct business, Bruininks said.

He said there will be more incentive for the two parties to work together and to get things done, such as passing the bonding bill.

“I think everyone wants to see more done,” Bruininks said.