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Governor's bonding recommendations a 'great start' for the University of Minnesota

January 15, 2014

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler today called Gov. Mark Dayton’s bonding proposal for the University a great starting position – including full funding for three projects – and said U leaders, faculty and students will continue to make their case at the Legislature to fully fund the University’s 2014 capital request. 

"I’m pleased Governor Dayton is supporting some very important facility investments for our students," Kaler said. "His bonding bill is a great starting position, and we look forward to building on our partnership with the governor and legislators to support the U, help students and advance our state."

The University is requesting $232.7 million in this year’s bonding bill, for six priority projects. Dayton’s bill provides $118.7 million of that request, including full funding for three of the projects: $56.7 million for renovations to 87-year-old Tate Laboratory, to meet the modern teaching needs of physical science disciplines; $12 million to the research laboratory improvement fund, which includes the St. Paul campus aquatic invasive species and bee laboratories; and $10 million to renovate and expand the Crookston campus wellness center, to better serve a growing residential student population and help the campus be a more vibrant regional center.

Dayton’s recommendation provides $40 million of the $100 million University officials requested for Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement (HEAPR), used to maximize and extend the life of facilities that serve students, faculty and staff system-wide. One in four of the University’s major campus buildings are 70 years old or older, according to capital planning officials. The Twin Cities campus alone has nearly 100 buildings that are more than 50 years old. Many of these buildings require renewal in order to prepare students for successful careers in the 21st century.

The governor did not include $30 million requested for a new microbial sciences research building on the St. Paul campus, nor $24 million for a new chemical sciences and advanced materials building on the Duluth campus. The new microbial sciences facility would house interdisciplinary research to speed discoveries in plant pathology, food safety and animal infectious diseases, key areas for growing Minnesota businesses and industry. The new building on the Duluth campus would help meet the state’s growing demand for chemists and biochemists. It would also provide research space to advance Minnesota’s mining industry while safeguarding the environment.

"Minnesota’s land-grant university cannot educate its students, nor expect world-class researchers to address the state and nation’s most pressing challenges, with inefficient and outdated facilities," Kaler said. "Whether it’s the threat that Asian carp, zebra mussels and other invasive species pose to Minnesota’s waterways and tourism industry, or discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the University of Minnesota is uniquely positioned to achieve strong results for the state, its economy and citizens’ quality of life."

Most of the projects in the University’s 2014 bonding request will advance the high-demand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. A performance metric in the 2013 state omnibus higher education bill mandated that the U increase the number of students graduating with STEM degrees to help meet Minnesota’s growing need for a highly skilled workforce. About two-thirds of U of M graduates build lifelong careers in Minnesota.

Kaler said the University would continue to work with the governor and legislators this session to fully fund the U’s bonding request, including crucial HEAPR projects, which provide renewal funds and help bring buildings up to code for health, safety and accessibility purposes.

The University itself has committed $66.3 million in investments to the $299 million in total projects.

To view a short video about the U’s priority projects, click here.

For more information about the University of Minnesota’s 2014 capital request, which includes facilities improvement projects on all five campuses, visit z.umn.edu/6stepsforward.

Twin Cities Campus: