U passes two-year budget

Matt Graham

The Board of Regents unanimously passed the University’s two-year budget Monday, approving the first single-digit tuition increase since 2000-01.

The move “puts us strongly on the path to fiscal stability,” said University President Bob Bruininks.

Because of the $105 million from the state, the regents were able to increase tuition at a lower rate and increase spending on several areas of the University, officials said.

Resident undergraduates will face a 7.5 percent increase in combined tuition and fees, up to $4,020 for 13 credits. Nonresidents will face a 2.9 percent increase, up to $9,835.

An increase of 6.5 percent is expected for the 2006-07 academic year for resident students.

Dave Metzen, outgoing board chairman, said it is “very heartening” to see single-digit tuition increases, but he expressed concern for students who are already in debt dealing with yet another increase.

“It’s very, very challenging for our students,” he said.

Minnesota Student Association President Emily Serafy Cox said she is glad the tuition increase is smaller this year. But it still falls short of the University’s original goal of a 5.5 percent increase.

“Even that is not really enough,” she said.

Regents appropriated $2 million to the University’s library system to update digital resources and to buy new materials.

Wendy Lougee, University librarian, said she is happy the library was a priority in the new budget. The new money will help improve the library system.

“There’s been a growing sense that we needed to shore up the resources for awhile,” she said.

The University also secured funds to raise employee salaries.

This is different from the previous two-year budget. At that time, state funding cuts forced the University to institute a wage freeze on staff, which played a role in the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 strike during fall 2003.

“People came out of the last round of negotiations really hurting,” said Gladys McKenzie, AFSCME Local 3800 lead negotiator.

The budget also has provisions to make the University more competitive in faculty compensation. The University ranked 28 out of 30 research universities in its peer group for average faculty salaries in the fiscal year 2003-04.

“Historically, the University has continued to fall behind (its peer group),” said Marvin Marshak, Faculty Consultative Committee chairman.

Marshak said one of the biggest challenges is the growing gap between public and private schools.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said the budget was formulated before the University’s plan to become a top-three public research institution, and the budget nevertheless meshes with the program.