Tuition Troubles: Budget Request Shortfall in Governor’s Proposal Sparks Discussion on Potential Tuition Increase

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BY: LOGAN PETERSON, petersonlo@mnstate.edu

During the past few weeks, rumors have surfaced that MSUM students could see a 7-7.5 percent increase (around $600 per year) in tuition. But Jean Hollaar, vice president of Finance and Administration, doesn’t foresee this happening.

On Friday, March 22, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz offered a revised budget recommendation that included a $65 million dollar increase for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. This is around $181 million dollars less than the $246 million dollars requested by the system. Of that request, $169 million was set for campus support.

Even with a funding request shortfall, Hollaar said a more reasonable expectation would be around a 3 percent increase in tuition costs for next year, and no increase for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Given our most likely budget planning scenario, which was that our state appropriation wouldn’t be fully funded, we would have the ability to increase tuition in the first year, but not the second year in the biennium,” Hollaar said.

Assuming a 3 percent increase, full-time undergraduate students would pay around $111 more a semester ($222 per year). The $600 increase prediction is based on a document made by the Inter Faculty Organization (IFO), taking the amount requested of the state by the Minnesota State school system minus the $43 million that was originally proposed by Governor Tim Walz.

“You can certainly figure out that math and do all that, but philosophically, our board won’t go there,” Hollaar said. “Our board of trustees has had a very long-standing commitment to affordable tuition, access and all those things.”

Plans and budgets are being made, but nothing is set in stone. According to Hollaar, they are still very early in the political process.

The Minnesota House and Senate should publish their budget proposals on April 12, and by May 20 a conference committee will have compared all three proposals to come up with a final budget to be approved.

Legislative specialist at Students United and MSUM student senator Will Hagen said that if we don’t see the budget shortfall made up in tuition, students will see it in education and campus amenities. Hagen’s position at Student’s United is to track any state or federal legislative action that regards higher education.

“Our concern, having spoken to the IFO, is that instead of it being put on students they’ll just cut professors,” Hagen said. “We’re filling tenured professors with adjuncts which is not ideal for the professors or the students.”

Along with cuts to tenured professors, Hagen predicts that we’ll see increases in class sizes and decreases in offered classes and smaller majors.

“However they do it, it is still a big shortfall,” Hagen said. “Cumulatively, I would tell students to expect a raise in costs of campus, however they distribute that out.“

Hollaar said there are multiple plans for multiple different outcomes.

“We’re just kind of in this state of every day we learn a little more, and something else comes into clearer focus,” Hollaar said. If [the Minnesota State system] receives the full $169 million, it will be a happy day.”

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