More money for Uof M, praise for legislators
MINNEAPOLIS -- Parents complained about a tuition agreement with Wisconsin and hourly workers said they are underpaid, but for the most part a Wednesday University of Minnesota meeting featured the best reception any school budget has received in...
MINNEAPOLIS -- Parents complained about a tuition agreement with Wisconsin and hourly workers said they are underpaid, but for the most part a Wednesday University of Minnesota meeting featured the best reception any school budget has received in more than a decade.
President Bob Bruininks credited the Legislature and governor for providing more money.
"It is not everything we need," but is an improvement over years with spending increases as small as 0.3 percent, he said.
The state Legislature approved a nearly $152 million spending increase for the two years beginning July 1, out of total state contribution of $1.4 billion. The university's overall budget - which includes money from the state, tuition and other revenues - nears $3 billion.
Organizations ranging from those representing students to faculty members praised the budget for increasing aid to students, especially those who otherwise may not be able to afford to attend the school.
There was little discussion about campuses outside the Twin Cities, although people on each campus watched the proceedings via video.
The best news for those campuses is the budget ensures their tuition will be below that charged at the Twin Cities campus, and tuition at the Morris facility actually will fall.
"The Twin Cities campus has the most expensive programs," Bruininks said in an interview, and it was unfair to continue charging undergraduates on the Duluth and Morris campuses more than charged on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. Crookston students will continue paying less than in the Twin Cities.
In Duluth, tuition may increase, just not as much as in the Twin Cities, but students will notice Morris tuition fall, Bruininks said.
Not everyone liked the budget plan, due to be approved by the Board of Regents on June 27.
Denise Osterholm, representing clerical workers on the Duluth campus, was one of five American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union leaders complaining about low pay.
"People can't afford to do things," Osterholm said.
Osterholm and other union employees said university administrators received overly generous pay raises.
"What do you expect, more than your share of this?" she asked.
Bruininks said the union members made good arguments but he also pointed out that the university and union leaders begin contract negotiations in coming days, so Wednesday's comments could be the opening salvo of those talks.
What is known as tuition reciprocity also came under fire. The program allows out-of-state students to pay lower tuition rates, and the state with the most students attending college in the other state pays the difference. Wisconsin ends up paying Minnesota because more Wisconsin students attend Minnesota schools than the other way around.
There is little controversy about a reciprocity arrangement with North Dakota, but one with Wisconsin was criticized.
Judy Rheault, whose son attends the University of Wisconsin Madison, urged the board to reject Bruininks' proposal to phase out reciprocity with Wisconsin unless a new agreement can be reached.
University officials say they lost $7 million recently because the deal with Wisconsin gives the money to the state general fund, not the university. But Rheault said the university has wasted $7.2 million buying out coach contracts in recent years, not to mention spending more than $300 million on a new footballs stadium.
Toby Madden, whose family has many connections to the university, also complained about Bruininks' reciprocity stance.
It is good to welcome Wisconsin students, he said. "We get the best and brightest students from the state of Wisconsin."
In an interview, Bruininks agreed with Madden that too much is being made of the controversy. He said he still hopes the two states can work out a new deal, but said his plan would affect no current student.
If no new deal is reached between the two states, under a University of Minnesota plan, Wisconsin students would pay the same tuition rates as Minnesota students, not the lower rates Wisconsin students now pay to attend the Minnesota school. The new tuition would be phased in so it would apply only to new students, not Wisconsin students now attending the University of Minnesota.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the News Tribune.
This story has been corrected. The original story left a mistaken impression about a tuition agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin. It should have read: If no new deal is reached between the two states, under a University of Minnesota plan, Wisconsin students would pay the same tuition rates as Minnesota students, not the lower rates Wisconsin students now pay to attend the Minnesota school. The new tuition would be phased in so it would apply only to new students, not Wisconsin students now attending the University of Minnesota.