Bruininks requests $225M from Senate

President Bob Bruininks faced opposition and criticism about the expected tuition hike.

Jake Grovum

He came to request money from the state, but University President Bob Bruininks instead found himself defending upcoming tuition increases at the Capitol on Thursday.

Following his presentation of the University’s capital request, Bruininks and Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, sparred on an expected increase for the 2008-09 school year.

“The headlines scream 7.5 percent and it scares people away from the institution,” Robling said. “I don’t know how you can get the message out that you are still affordable to an average, middle-income family.”

Robling questioned the tuition hike, citing a 13 percent increase in state appropriations to the University last year.

Bruininks downplayed the sticker price, emphasizing scholarships and programs that drive costs down for some students.

Bruininks was there to make the case for the $225.5 million capital request to the Senate Higher Education Committee, one week after he gave a similar talk for that committee’s House counterpart.

The request would fund building maintenance and renovations. The state of the economy should be a prime reason to invest in the University, Bruininks argued.

He said investment in rehabilitating University buildings and renovations would help low employment statewide, and stressed the benefits of tapping into low interest rates in a teetering economy.

“I think this is a time for Minnesota to stretch,” Bruininks said. “We will not see interest rates like this for some time.”

Bruininks also took the opportunity last week to persuade the House to dole out $292 million more for biotechnology buildings and researchers, calling it “Minnesota’s competitive edge.”