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Regents consider 1.5% tuition increase as part of proposed budget; University community weighs in during public forum

The board will take action on the budget June 29 during a special meeting.
Image by Alice Bennett
University of Minnesota Board of Regents held a public forum in MacNamara Alumni Center on Friday, June 11 2021.

A 1.5% tuition increase for students at the University of Minnesota was proposed as part of the administration’s 2022 operating budget during the June Board of Regents meeting held Thursday and Friday.

The tuition increase would raise fees by approximately $200 for Minnesota residents and over $450 for nonresidents on the Twin Cities campus. Although some of the regents questioned the idea of increasing tuition, most regents agreed that decreasing tuition or holding it flat was not sustainable due to financial constraints.

University President Joan Gabel said the $4 billion budget proposal, which includes the proposed tuition increase, reflects the “spirit, resiliency and shared sacrifice” of the last year, while also reflecting the $172 million budget deficit resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The board will vote on the budget proposal at a special meeting scheduled for June 29.

Regents weigh in on the tuition increase proposal

“I don’t like it, but I can get there,” Regent Dave McMillan said in response to the proposed tuition increase at the meeting. McMillan chairs the Finance and Operations Committee, which oversees discussion of the budget proposal.

The 1.5% tuition increase is below the current rate of inflation, which ranges from 2-5%, according to Julie Tonneson, associate vice president and budget director.

Regent Darrin Rosha voiced his concern over the proposed tuition increase at the meeting and discussed the need for the University to stay competitive with the prices of peer institutions.

“When I think about quality public education, that’s also affordable,” he said at the meeting.

Moving forward from the pandemic

Tonneson said the budget will focus on moving forward from the pandemic.

“As opposed to last year, which was kind of a standstill budget due to uncertainties around the pandemic, the budget we are proposing to you… allows for movement forward,” Tonneson said at the meeting.

Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Myron Frans said the University should take the opportunity to move strategically as the administration develops the budget proposal.

“Big events require big responses,” Frans said at the meeting. “I’m really excited about the opportunity coming out of this really tough year… to making some strategic decisions to put us on the right path for a long time, not just a few years.”

The University also has $15.5 million dollars in proposed state funding built into the budget, although this funding is yet to be passed by the State legislature.

The budget also proposed a 1.5% increase in compensation for staff and faculty. This is below the current rate of inflation and comes after a freeze on merit raises and salary cuts throughout the last financial year.

Feedback from the University community

The board held a public forum Friday to allow members of the University community to give feedback on the budget proposal. Many of the speakers were current staff and faculty at the University.

Mostafa Kaveh, dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said the proposed 1.5% salary increase for faculty and staff is just a starting point.

“A 1.5% modest compensation increase, when we’re in a highly competitive environment for talent, is a step in the right direction, but it’s just a start,” Kaveh said at the meeting.

Phil Buhlmann, a chemistry professor at the University and outgoing chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee also supported the salary increase at the public forum.

“Please remember that half of the employees at the University of Minnesota earn less than $60,000,” Buhlmann said. “Please remember that the faculty were team players [during the pandemic].”

The regents are accepting written feedback from the public on the proposed budget on their website until June 23.

Abbey Machtig contributed to this report

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