U funding

Amy Olson

With only one more committee to pass through before final approval, the University’s budget request is progressively losing steam.
On Friday, the full Senate voted 62-2 in favor of its $2.61 billion higher education spending bill, which would provide the University with $82.6 million — far short of University President Mark Yudof’s $198.8 million request. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system would receive $97.3 million.
The House higher education spending package, passed April 16, allocated $121 million — nearly $40 million more — in additional spending for each system.
“We’re disappointed the Senate chose to come in under our request,” said Regent William Peterson. He said he hoped the University would gain more funding when a joint committee of House and Senate members convenes later this week to iron out the differences between the two bills.
In an article in Saturday’s St. Paul Pioneer Press, Yudof said the lack of funding could force the University to abandon its proposal to provide small-group seminars for all incoming freshmen — a project the president has strongly advocated. “The whole undergraduate initiative is out the window,” he said.
Yudof could not be reached for direct comment Sunday.
LeRoy Stumpf, DFL-Thief River Falls, chairman of the Senate Higher Education Budget Division, said committee members chose not to support the undergraduate initiative — which includes improved advising services and hiring 100 new faculty — because there are already enough professors.
The Senate bill also left out funding for a proposed campus in Rochester, as well as funding for the Academic Health Center. The House higher education spending bill appropriated $5.3 million for the Rochester campus and $6 million in funding for health professional education.
Gov. Jesse Ventura has proposed a $37 million endowment to fund health professional education. Sen. Sheila Kiscaden, R-Rochester, said she supports this proposal because of its importance to the state’s economy.
Stumpf said the endowment was not included in the Senate’s spending bill because senators support creating the endowment with funds from the state’s tobacco settlement instead.
The appropriation would be part of the health and human services budget. Stumpf said he and Sen. Donald Samuelson, DFL-Brainerd, hope to make the endowment part of the omnibus health and human services spending bill, which will also appear before a conference committee later this week.
While Stumpf declined to speculate on an exact figure, he said he is certain that the amount of money put into an endowment would exceed the $6 million figure included in the House bill to finance health professional education.
“It is my commitment that we adequately fund the University and the University’s components,” he said. “We will have a balanced bill for funding the University.”
The discrepancies between the two bills are not limited to appropriations for the state’s two higher education systems.
Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said although the Senate bill provides less funding for the two systems, it includes more money for financial aid. The Senate bill allocates $57 million in new funding for financial aid.
“The Senate is also trying to take care of students,” Stumpf said.