Budget recommendation shortfall might affect tuition

The University requested funding for four categories that contribute to the two-year budget request.

Rowena Vergara

University students could expect a tuition increase next year if Gov. Tim Pawlenty does not meet a University budget request of $20 million for technology support and data processing, University officials said.

“It’s weak,” Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, said about Pawlenty’s recommendation.

“What the governor didn’t fund are all the kinda things behind the walls.”

The University requested funding for four main categories that contribute to the entire two-year budget request: academic initiatives, an increase in faculty compensation, research support and technology support.

The last area of funding, technology support, was not fulfilled by Pawlenty. The remaining three were fully funded.

Pawlenty’s recommendation allotted $105 million for the categories, while the University requested $126 million.

“It’s still short of what we need,” Pfutzenreuter said.

The two-year budget request, which Pawlenty must approve, allocates funding for the state’s higher education institutions.

The $20 million shortage would force the University to “reprioritize money or increase tuition to cover costs,” Pfutzenreuter said.

Susan Heegaard, the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office director, said state support for higher education institutions has been on the decline for the last decade.

Because of such a decline, the possibility of a double-digit increase to tuition has become a greater concern, she said.

But Pfutzenreuter said the University will not see a double-digit increase in tuition anytime soon. The University plans

to hold the current proposed 5.5 percent tuition rate increase, he said.

“We’re working hard to make sure the governor’s numbers are up another $20 million,” he said.

Two years ago, during the last budget request, Pawlenty cut $185 million from the University, Pfutzenreuter said.

The State Legislature allotted the University $1.1 billion for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years.

As the budget recommendation nears a vote by the House Higher Education Finance Committee on April 18, some higher education officials said they are concerned about increasing tuition.

The typical tuition of a University undergraduate student is nearly $8,300, which is not too far off from the recognized tuition of approximately $9,000 at private institutions, said Tricia Grimes, HESO policy and research analyst.