U wraps Senate budget appeal

Chris Vetter

It’s on to the House for University administrators traveling the legislative budget circuit in search of increased funding.
University officials wrapped up their biennial budget presentation to the Senate Higher Education Committee on Tuesday, closing their third and final meeting with the group. The House Higher Education Committee will hear the budget proposal starting March 17.
The nine-member senate committee will hear the budget proposal from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system later this week before formulating a bill to appropriate state funds for the University.
Richard Pfutzenreuter, associate vice president for Budget and Finance, used the final meeting to explain to the committee the partnership plan for funding the University’s budget. Under the proposal, the state and University would each pay 47 percent of the University’s budget, with tuition accounting for the remaining 6 percent.
Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, told the committee that the percentage of the budget paid by tuition must be reduced and that tuition must be contained at 2.5 percent annual growth.
“The regents are committed to this proposal,” Marshak said. “They are committed to holding tuition to 2.5 percent. Tuition has gone up too much, too fast and poses a serious access problem for our students.” Tuition has increased at an average rate of 6 percent over the past four years, Marshak said.
The University proposal calls for $580 million per year for the next two years from the state, about 17 percent more than what the University received this year. But this year’s $497 million included a one-time allocation of $37 million that was tacked on to the University’s approved $460 million base.
The University will match whatever dollar amount over that $460 million base the state approves this year.
The University will generate matching funds through increases in private fund raising and enrollment, and reductions in faculty, civil staff and professional and academic employees, Pfutzenreuter said.
The University’s plans call for replacing three out of every four faculty members that leave because of retirement, which would cut faculty by about 150 during the next four years, Pfutzenreuter said. The plan also calls for the elimination of 720 civil staff workers during the next four years, he said.
In addition, the administrators explained that if the state approves the full request, the University will not request any increase in state funding two years from now.
“The essence of this proposal, if we receive all our funding,” Marshak said, “(is) there will not be an increased proposal in the next biennium.”
But committee members expressed concern about joining in a four-year plan with the University in a two-year session. Members also wanted to make sure the University was accounting for their share of the matched increase each year. Marshak responded by telling the committee that an auditor could prepare a report to prove that the revenue had been raised.
After the House committee hears the University proposal, both committees will forward their budget bills to the rest of the Legislature for consideration before a final bill is sent to Gov. Arne Carlson.