Regents approve tuition surcharge for CSE students

The board also green-lighted a remodel of the University’s volleyball center and reviewed progress on the Law School’s deficit.

Regent Kendall Powell speaks during the University's Board of Regents meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Friday, Feb. 8.

Jack Rodgers

Regent Kendall Powell speaks during the University’s Board of Regents meeting at the McNamara Alumni Center on Friday, Feb. 8.

Austen Macalus

The University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents passed a tuition surcharge for College of Science and Engineering students, approved renovations to the University’s volleyball center and reviewed progress on a three-year plan to balance the Law School’s multi-million dollar deficit at meetings on Thursday and Friday.

Tuition surcharge passed for CSE students

In an effort to expand CSE’s capacity, regents voted to implement a $1,000 per semester surcharge for incoming undergraduate students next academic year. The surcharge would not apply to current students. 

The surcharge will allow the college to increase the number of students, with plans to add 100 additional undergraduates in each of the next three years. The additional revenue would help pay for renovations to CSE facilities, which administrators say would open the door for expansion.

“A big part of the motivation for this surcharge, which is [in] line with the programs in engineering at all Big Ten schools among some other universities, is to provide resources for us to increase capacity and expand our program, because that’s where demand is,” said CSE Dean Mos Kaveh. “Our expectations and our plan is to grow across the board.”

CSE has seen a 25 percent increase in student enrollment over the last 10 years. The “extraordinary increase” in demand has overwhelmed several programs and there’s a lack of adequate space, Kaveh said. 

The new CSE fees would match those at the Carlson School of Management, which also charges a surcharge in addition to undergraduate tuition, said University budget director Julie Tonneson. 

Tonneson pointed out that all other public schools in the Big Ten have a surcharge or fee for engineering and computer sciences progress, though surcharges on non-engineering disciplines are less widespread. 

However, some on the board expressed concerns about the increased fees. 

“Every time we need more revenue, we look to tuition rather than alternative sources,” said Regent Randy Simonson. “It bothers me that we just look to tuition.”

Student Representative to the Board of Regents Austin Kraft said he understands the purpose of the surcharge, but cautioned about its impact on students, especially with the University hiking up non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition 10 percent next year. 

“Whether that building has air conditioning or other basic amenities should not be a question that prospective student need to ask themselves,” he said. “The concerns for the steeping burden on students and their families should be taken into consideration.”

Regent Darrin Rosha said he worried the surcharge would hurt access to the University. 

“We have one of the top science and engineering schools in the nation, the world. We could charge a lot more. But that’s not our only question here,” he said. The question isn’t what can we charge. It’s how do we strike that balance between access for the people [of Minnesota].” 

Regent Ken Powell said while he is typically “uneasy with tuition increases,” the surcharge would address demand in STEM fields and help bring more engineering students to campus.

“This opens up the door for several hundred more students who would gladly come here and will gladly come here because of the space,” he said. 

$4 million in volleyball center renovations

The board also approved a $4 million remodel of space that houses the Gophers volleyball team in the Maturi Pavilion. 

The multi-million dollar renovations will be largely paid by donor funds. The remodel is expected to be completed by next August. 

“We have a volleyball program that’s been achieving at a high high level for the past several years,” said Athletics Director Mark Coyle. “This performance center will have a huge impact not only on the experience it gives to our current student-athletes, but also to the recruiting process to ensure we get the type of young women we want to come here and compete at a high level for national championships.”

The University will remodel a 7,000 square foot space assigned to the volleyball team to “create an environment that will help recruit top student athletes.” The work includes workout facilities, locker rooms, student and recruiting lounges, coaches’ offices and premium seating on the center’s ground and second floor. 

The volleyball team started using Maturi Pavilion in 1994 after it was remodeled a year prior; before that, it was home to the Gopher men’s hockey team. The Gopher men’s and women’s gymnastic teams, and the men’s wrestling team also use Maturi Pavilion. 

Maturi is one of the most used volleyball centers across NCAA Division 1: the volleyball team typically ranks in the top five nationally in home match attendance. 

Regent Peggy Lucas — whom Regent Thomas Anderson called the volleyball team’s “number one fan” — expressed visible excitement about the renovations. 

“I’ve been a season ticket [holder] for over 20 years and it’s amazing how little volleyball has asked of us all this time,” Lucas said. “I’m really pleased that this is happening.”  

Law School progress  

As the Law School continues efforts to resolve a multi-million dollar deficit, the board reviewed progress made on a three-year plan. 

After the first year of the plan, Law School Dean Garry Jenkins said the Law School is well on its way to resolving its “structural imbalance” by 2021. 

The school reduced its deficit to $3.9 million in fiscal year 2018, a 33 percent reduction from two years earlier. The school expects to reduce the deficit by another $1.4 million in fiscal year 2019. 

“The law school has made tremendous progress in the time we’ve put it under this microscope,” said Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Brian Burnett. 

Jenkins said the Law School met or exceeded all metrics this year set by an oversight committee, although it has not been easy. 

“It has meant a lot of cuts, a lot of change. Lower salary increase for our faculty and [professional and administration staff],” Jenkins said. “This has not been easy, but it is something we have been taking very seriously and we are very committed to success.”

The school saw its largest entering J.D. class in seven years, Jenkins said, which exceeded enrollment targets by 9 percent.

Several regents expressed support for the Law School’s reducing costs, while maintaining its place as a top 20 law school in the country.  

“I know what we’ve asked you to do — reducing the budget while keeping or improving national rankings — is hard,” Regent Anderson said.

However, Jenkins said challenges remain to the school’s success, including a dramatic drop in international law students and pressure to contain tuition increases.