Senate Finance Committee approves higher ed plan

The plan would cut the University’s budget by $54.8 million next biennium.

The Senate Finance Committee passed a higher education funding bill Thursday that would cut $54.8 million from the University of MinnesotaâÄôs budget during the 2010-11 funding years. The bill would cut $112.5 million in state funding for the University, but it would make up the difference with more than $57.6 million in federal stimulus money. The proposed 4 percent cut precedes a 2012-13 biennium in which the University, and others in higher education, can expect a further 7 percent cut to state funding, Senate Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said. The state cuts came out of the UniversityâÄôs general operations budget âÄî special funding areas, such as health sciences or the Agriculture and Extension Service, are not cut under the plan. âÄúTheyâÄôre important to a lot of us,âÄù Pappas said before the committee. âÄúTheyâÄôre legislative priorities.âÄù The SenateâÄôs higher education plan conflicts with the plans proposed by the House and Gov. Tim Pawlenty, both of which would spend stimulus funds to make up for all state funding cuts to the University. There was little debate during ThursdayâÄôs committee meeting over the UniversityâÄôs budget. At one point, however, Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, drew attention to a large stack of papers on her desk, which she said were all the reports her office had received from the University over the last year, many of which she implied the University could do without in order to save money. âÄúThere are some ways that the University could reduce their spending without affecting students,âÄù she said. The House bill will be discussed in the House Finance Committee in coming days. If both plans are passed, a conference committee will meet to fix differences in the bills before sending them to the governor.