Money for reciprocity could go up

Editor’s Note: This is the last in a series examining Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed cuts to higher education in Minnesota.

Amid the dollars and cents of proposed cuts to MinnesotaâÄôs higher education institutions, there is at least one program Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes to increase. The stateâÄôs Interstate Tuition Reciprocity program would get a $2.5 million bump in funding over the next two years on top of its current $3.75 million budget under PawlentyâÄôs plan. The program, based on a complicated set of formulas, has Minnesota pay some of the costs related to instructing students who go to school in either North Dakota or Wisconsin. Those states, in turn, pay Minnesota for students who study here. The program brought in more than $10.5 million from Wisconsin in 2007-08, according to the Office of Higher Education. Most of that money goes directly to the schools instructing the students, OHE spokesperson Barb Schlaefer said. But, Schlaefer said, âÄújust when we think we understand the reciprocity agreements, theyâÄôre each different.âÄù In MinnesotaâÄôs agreement with North Dakota, the state enrolling the greater number of students in the other stateâÄôs school pays that state to cover some instructional costs. According to OHE, Minnesota paid North Dakota more than $3 million in 2006-07. That demand has steadily increased, as more Minnesota residents go to North Dakota for school , thus, the governorâÄôs proposed increase. Not every program serving the state and surrounding areas will fare as well, however. At the University of Minnesota, an institution facing a proposed $151 million cut , two library programs are looking at 10 percent cuts of their own. With $5 million of a total $8 million budget provide d by the state, Minitex Library Information Network, a program that provides access to the UniversityâÄôs library collections to other libraries across the state, has to face the prospect of a $1.1 million cut in their budget over the next two years. âÄúWe anticipated that we wouldnâÄôt get any increases because of the economy,âÄù Minitex Director Bill DeJohn said. âÄúNo one could tell what was going to happen. We assumed we were going to get something.âÄù Under Gov. Tim PawlentyâÄôs budget recommendations, Minitex and MnLINK Gateway , a virtual library of all online catalogs at the University, face a 10 percent cut in their funding . For Minitex, that would mean trying to compensate for the cut. Like other aspects of the University, Minitex has stopped hiring employees and is looking to cut other costs. DeJohn said he didnâÄôt know if there would be job cuts to the more than 70 employees. The group does have reserve funding, but only about $100,000 worth, DeJohn said. Contracts with neighboring states such as the Dakotas only bring in about five percent of MinitexâÄôs budget, he said. But the bulk of MinitexâÄôs funding comes from the Legislature and Department of Education , DeJohn said. -Devin Henry is a senior staff reporter