State budget deal reached; tuition hike still a possibility

Latasha Webb

House and Senate leaders came to a budget agreement Memorial Day weekend after Gov. Jesse Ventura negotiated a new proposal for the eight remaining funding bills.

Under the new spending agreement, state higher education will receive a $176 million increase. Officials estimate $80 million to $90 million of that sum will go to the University.

The total higher education increase exceeds the $125 million the governor suggested late last week and the $165 million the House originally proposed, but is less than the Senate’s $233 million offer.

Senate leaders expect the new deal to result in tuition increases and faculty layoffs, but Ventura said it was time to “come to a middle ground.”

However, for some University students, there is no middle ground. Either they can afford to stay in school, or they can’t.

“I go to the College of Continuing Education, so I get no financial aid,” said Rachel Lenstch, a sophomore at the University.

“I wouldn’t be able to afford an increase, unless I switched colleges,” she said.

Amellia O-Brick, a senior in the College of Human Ecology, said she was worried about the University’s integrity as much as her own pocketbook.

“I’d have to work more, double probably,” she said. “But it makes no sense to charge more for school, then give us a lower-quality education.”

Richard Pfutzenreuter, University vice president for budget and finance said the $176 million proposal is significantly more than previous proposals, but he acknowledged that “tuition pressure will be substantial.”

University officials said the additional funding will probably help reduce the $20 million in cuts and 14 percent tuition increases President Mark Yudof recently predicted in response to Ventura’s informal $125 million proposal.

Under Ventura’s previous plan, the University would have received between $50 million and $60 million.

University officials hoped for at least $100 million and are disappointed with the Legislature’s decision, which will be about $10 million less.

But the governor maintains the new deal is a success for everyone involved.

“This plan gives both the House and the Senate much of what they have told us is important to them,” he said in a statement released last Friday.

University students can look for definite answers after the Higher Education Conference Committee meeting Thursday.

The committee will decide how to divide the additional funding between the University, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the Higher Education Services Office.

 

Latasha Webb covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected]