U budget increase goes to floor vote

Latasha Webb

The Minnesota legislative session has come and gone, and University students are still facing a 10 percent to 14 percent tuition increase for the 2001-02 school year.

Thursday evening the Higher Education Conference Committee divided the $176 million allocation Senate and House leaders reserved for the state’s higher education.

The University will receive an increase of about $90 million. The committee’s allocations will go before the Legislature during the June 4 special session.

“The amount of money here is a tad more than we were modeling, so in a sense it’s good news,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, University vice president for budget and finance.

Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, told the committee the amount of loans and high workloads students take on to pay for high college tuition might be a significant factor in the length of the average college career.

“They aren’t getting out in four years. It’s more like five to six years,” she said.

Students who attend the 35 members of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities can expect an average tuition increase of 10 percent. The actual increases per college range from less than 7 percent to over 11 percent.

“We are very concerned about the affordability of college for lower-income students,” said Robert Poch, director of the Higher Education Services Office.

University officials are also concerned about retaining lower-income students.

Pfutzenreuter said University officials might use some of the $90 million to assist lower-income students with high tuition costs. The University also intends to use funds from its Capital Campaign to make financial aid a number one priority.

He added that the institution is exploring money saving strategies, such as adding co-pays to health plans.

Although the University did not receive the initial request, the committee’s final allocation exceeds original proposals made by the Governor and the House.

University President Mark Yudof said, “The tuition increase will still be substantial, but less than it otherwise might have been.”

Sen. Deanna Wiener, DFL-Eagan, summed up the overall mood of the Higher Education Conference Committee on Thursday:

“I’m happy, but I could have been happier.”