Carlson signs U’s 1997-98 budget

Chris Vetter

After months of campaigning, lobbying and petitioning for more funding, the University finally found out how much money it will receive for the 1998-99 biennium.
Gov. Arne Carlson signed the state’s two-year higher education funding bill Wednesday. The entire bill, which includes all state colleges and universities and money for financial aid, totals $2.4 billion. The University will receive $1.076 billion, $80 million less than the school requested.
Brian Dietz, Carlson’s press secretary, said the governor signed the bill because it contained many of his recommendations.
“It will insure that Minnesota students will receive a quality education,” Dietz said. “The governor is pleased with the substantial increases for the University, especially $40 million for recruiting new faculty.”
University President Nils Hasselmo thanked the governor and the Legislature for all their hard work in hammering out the bill.
“This is very important investment capital for the University,” Hasselmo said. “The investment by the state will make a lot of our projects possible.”
Both the House and Senate higher education committees said throughout the session that holding tuition to the rate of inflation was a key measure they wanted to see in the bill. The funding increase, Hasselmo said, will allow the University to maintain current tuition levels.
“This appropriation will make it possible for us to stay within the 2.5 percent inflation rate for tuition,” Hasselmo said.
The Legislature’s conference committee agreed on the final bill May 15 and sent it to the governor late Monday night.
There was some concern that Carlson might veto the bill because it spent $64 million more than Carlson recommended. There was also the possibility that Carlson might have vetoed several other funding bills because he had not received a requested $150 million tax credit for the controversial K-12 education bill.
While providing more funding for the University to upgrade the school’s technology infrastructure and increase faculty pay, the higher education bill also provides substantial increases for financial aid.
The maximum annual state grant allowance was increased from $1,700 to $2,000.
The bill also expands the pool of students eligible for grants by allowing independent students with no children to receive as much as 20 percent of their college costs from the state.
The University’s Board of Regents will meet in June to decide how to allocate the new budget.
— Staff Reporter Jim Martyka contributed to this report.