Bruininks: Tuition increases necessary to balance budget

by Molly Moker

University President Bob Bruininks reasserted that double-digit tuition increases will likely be necessary during the next few years to meet the institution’s financial challenges.

Bruininks presented the University’s financial standing to the Board of Regents on March 12.

The University is on track with its budget plans for the upcoming school year, but tuition increases will be necessary to keep it there, Bruininks said.

He said tuition will go up 14 percent next year for students at the Twin Cities campus and 13 percent for students in Morris, Crookston and Duluth. Bruininks said tuition will most likely continue at a double-digit rate for up to three years.

Currently, undergraduate resident tuition and Student Services Fees for students taking 13 or more credits per semester at the Twin Cities campus are $6,562 per year. This will increase to $7,477 next year.

Bruininks said the University is in debt by $64 million, $60.7 million of which is recurring from last year.

Student tuition and fees increases will make up $51 million of the debt, Bruininks said. He said the University will work to reduce administrative and operating costs to alleviate the price of running the institution.

Bruininks said if the University relied solely on tuition to balance the budget, students would pay 50 percent more during the next two years, with tuition going up 31 percent next year.

Bruininks also said one-third, or 2,500, of the University’s staff would need to be cut.

Bruininks said tuition cannot continue to be raised. He said that nationally, 250,000 students left colleges last year because of financial reasons.

“We can’t keep putting this on them,” Bruininks said. “I think students should participate somehow in funding, but I think this is too burdensome.”

Bruininks said although the University has consistently raised tuition, enrollment has not suffered. This year, Bruininks said enrollment across all University campuses is at 64,000, up from 61,500 in 2002.

Money from the government will be critical to help balance upcoming tuition increases, Bruininks said.

But an increase in University funding might be difficult. State economist Tom Stinson reported to the board that the state still faces a $1.1 billion challenge in the 2006 to 2007 biennium.

Bruininks said increased lobbying will play a major role in the University receiving more funding.

He said he is optimistic the House will find a way to fund all of the capital projects in the University’s recent $155.5 million capital bonding request.

Bruininks said he has done some lobbying and received positive responses.

“The people I talked to on the other end of the line were absolutely enthusiastic,” he said.