Shutdown’s end could bring extra $25M to U

Students stand to benefit, and the physics and nanotechnology building might finally arrive on campus.

by Evelina Smirnitskaya

A collective sigh of relief at the Capitol Thursday evening could mean cheers at the University of Minnesota.

The deal, hashed out between Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders to end a two-week shutdown, includes an extra $60 million in funding for higher education over the next two years âÄî $50 million of which may go to the University.

During yesterdayâÄôs visit to the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Dayton announced he would accept the last Republican proposal offered June 30.

The offer included adding an $10 million in funding to the University.

That means Republicans offered to add an extra $10 million to their previous offers made during budget negotiations, said University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter.

Since the numbers from previous offers were not released, the University might actually receive about $25 million more in state funding that what was planned for this academic year, he said. The exact number is unclear until a bill is passed.

âÄúItâÄôs very fluid right now,âÄù he said.

The University planned for possible extra cash when it approved the current budget, based on a worst-case scenario of $70.8 million in state reductions.

Former University President Bob Bruininks said a third of any additional state support would go to help students. He did not elaborate on whether that meant a smaller tuition hike, increased financial aid funding or if the help would go to undergraduate or graduate programs.

Any student assistance likely wouldnâÄôt go into effect until 2012.

âÄúIt really was a sort of global guideline,âÄùPfutzenreuter said.

University administration will go before the Board of Regents  at their next meeting in September with recommendations on how extra money should be allocated.

âÄúItâÄôs really early to speculate on how much actual money there is, because all there is is this piece of paper,âÄù Pfutzenreuter said.

Money for Capital Projects

One of the stipulations of DaytonâÄôs deal with Republicans is the passage of a $500 million bonding bill.

âÄúIâÄôm hoping we can work out a bonding bill,âÄù Dayton said when he announced the budget framework at the Capitol Thursday. âÄúI canâÄôt speak for [House Speaker Kurt Zellers] or [Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.]âÄù

For the University, this could mean a new physics and nanotechnology building.

Since no bonding bill was passed before the shutdown, the project, which the school included on its capital request this year along American Indian Learning Resource Center and improvements to the Itasca Biological Station, was left in limbo.

The University planned to include all three in next yearâÄôs capital request, but now Pfutzenreuter said there might be hope of getting them funded this year.

âÄúWeâÄôre glad the worry about the shutdown appears to be over, and weâÄôre looking forward to finding out the details and optimistic about the bonding,âÄù he said.