Regents should not approve budget request

The Board of Regents will consider University President Bob BruininksâÄô biennial budget request for 2010 and 2011 tomorrow. The budget includes a $141.2 million request of state funds with an average 4.5 percent tuition hike during those years. The good news is that in the context of the past decade a 4.5 percent tuition hike is relatively minimal âÄî last year tuition increased 7.25 percent. But because of student debt loads on University students and because a 4.5 percent tuition increase exceeds average inflation rates, the Board of Regents should not approve the request. The University faces a tough legislative session next spring. The stateâÄôs quarterly budget forecast âÄî although not officially released until Dec. 4 âÄî for next year looks grim amid contractions in the credit market nationally. A recently released Minnesota Department of Finance report found that the stateâÄôs deficit could reach $1 billion. If the stateâÄôs economy continues to contract, state lawmakers will have to make budget cuts. But if the University adjusted its budget to include tuition hikes at the rate of inflation âÄî 2.85 percent for 2007 âÄî its argument to the Legislature would strengthen because lawmakers would be able to tell their constituents on the campaign trial that they voted to keep tuition at recent historic lows. Moreover, University students shoulder the largest debt load in the Big Ten and Minnesota college students in 2006 graduated with an average of more than $22,000 in debt âÄî the ninth highest in the nation that year. BruininksâÄô budget request is therefore not âÄúmodestâÄù in the light of those numbers, as he told The Minnesota Daily. Indeed, on the 2007 Student Experience Survey, University graduate students and undergraduates gave the University high marks in every category but one: costs of attending the University. But a tuition hike at the rate of inflation is a lofty prospect considering the Regents each vote for roughly 98 percent of proposals before them. Our expections that the Board denies the the administration’s request remain as low as its ability to check the adminstration.