U tuition increased by 14 percent

In 1971, state fund appropriation to the University was more than 8 percent of state spending. It is now 4 percent.

by Molly Moker

To fill in the gaps of the University’s 2004-05 operating budget, University President Bob Bruininks announced a 14 percent tuition increase.

At a May 14 Board of Regents meeting, he also mentioned a reduction in administrative and operating costs and said program cuts will be necessary.

The University has budgeted $2.5 billion for next year, Bruininks said. But the state’s $185 million cut to the University’s biennium budget last year means the University will still have to balance a $70.4 million deficit.

Bruininks’ planned budget will be voted on for approval at the June 11 meeting.

The tuition increase is higher than desirable, but necessary in balancing the budget, Bruininks said.

“I know we have a responsibility as a University to scrub our budget,” he said at the meeting. “I can guarantee you that yours truly and the people I work with are doing that.”

Board members said they were worried about the continuously rising tuition and lack of state funding.

“This is profoundly troubling,” Regent Maureen Reed said. “Almost troubling beyond words.”

Cuts have been made across the University to make up for the deficit, Bruininks said. He said the University is changing the way it buys things, such as computers and software.

He also said the number of travel conferences and amount of money spent on food have been reduced, the car allowance for University senior executives has been cut and publication costs for University material has been decreased.

The state has cut money paid to the University since 1980, Bruininks said. In 1971, the state’s general fund appropriation to the University was more than 8 percent of total state spending. Currently, the state gives 4 percent to the University. The amount is projected to decrease in the future, Bruininks said.

To make up for state cuts and to ensure the quality of the University, Bruininks said money must be generated from other revenues.

“I’m not a tax-and-spend liberal, but I do believe in investing in the future,” he said. “We need to balance the budget, but move forward at the same time.”

From years 2003 to 2005, student tuition and fees made up for almost half of the budget deficit. The 2003-04 employee- wage freeze, the restructuring of health care benefits and a reduction of 500 employees also contributed to balancing the budget.

A 2.5 percent salary and benefit compensation increase for University employees will be implemented July 1, totaling almost $25 million. This will contribute to one-third of the budget deficit.

Bruininks said the increase is necessary, even though it will put a burden on the University.

“It’s very important to supply a salary increase in year two,” Bruininks said. “I just regret it’s not larger.”

Regent Frank Berman said new sources for funding other than tuition increases are necessary in financing the University.

“It’s unfortunate, it’s tragic, it’s sad, it’s intolerable,” he said. “And students just can’t do it.”

Faculty wages are also inappropriate, Berman said. Out of the top 30 private and public research institutions, professors at the Twin Cities campus are the third-lowest paid.

“Our faculty is ranked 28 of 30,” Berman said. “How can we tolerate this when the faculty is the cornerstone of this institution?”

Although the budget is tight, Bruininks said he thinks it’s sufficient.

“The University and the Board of Regents did a heroic job in keeping the University strong and moving forward with historic budget cuts,” Bruininks said. “But it has caused a lot of pain.”