U asks for additional state money

The total request is for about $39 million, plus some recurring requests.

Brian Edwards

After state leaders announced a $1.2 billion surplus, the University of Minnesota is requesting additional funds from the state Legislature. 
 
The $38.85 million  request, which is an addition to the roughly $236 million already asked of lawmakers for capital projects, would fund health initiatives, boost cyber security on campus, advance mining research and help to cover money the University lost when the state dropped UCare. Members of the Board of Regents approved the request at Friday’s board meeting.
 
But University administrators decided to not ask the Legislature to fund a tuition freeze this year, citing low interest from legislators last year.
 
“An additional base allocation linked to holding down tuition doesn’t have political legs,” said University President Eric Kaler at Friday’s board meeting. “It picks up on threads that are in the state.”
 
Tuition increased for University students this year after lawmakers didn’t provide requested funds to freeze tuition last legislative session. 
 
The request includes some one-time costs, while others will be recurring additions to the University’s yearly appeal for funds from the state.
 
University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said legislators usually tend to favor non-recurring costs when approving requests.
 
The recurring $3.6 million mining research request seeks to reduce the state’s dependence on taconite mines and diversify resources mined while also working to create better ways to reduce sulfide contamination.
 
Regent David McMillan said the efforts to improve mining in rural Minnesota, which has encountered financial troubles due a downturn in the mining industry, shows that the University is focused on greater Minnesota.
 
He said the nearly $4 million for health projects in rural areas will have effects that reach far into the future. The funding will help fund rural dentistry in Minnesota, and $2.5 million of the nearly $4 million for the project would help expand the University School of Dentistry Rural Dentist Associate Program in Bemidji and Hibbing.
 
“Future practitioners [who participated in the program] may look to the area for employment,” McMillan said.
 
The University will also ask for a recurring $10.5 million dollars to fund revenue lost because of the state’s decision to drop a contract with UCare from many public health insurance plans.
 
A request of $1 million dollars for the University’s Mobile Dental Clinic, which helps train many dentistry students, is included in the UCare request.
 
Kaler said the request is bound to evolve before it reaches the Legislature because there is no formal process for a supplemental budget request.
 
“It may well be that as we move forward in conversations that there will be opportunities for an additional ask,” he said at the board meeting.