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Minnesota legislative conferees and Gov. Dayton support U of M requests to freeze tuition and invest in leading research

May 17, 2013

A tuition freeze, the number-one priority in the University of Minnesota’s biennial budget request, has taken a step closer to becoming reality, thanks to members of the Higher Education Conference Committee.

Late Thursday, conferees approved the higher education funding bill, which marks the U’s first funding increase in eight years. The bill includes an investment to freeze undergraduate Minnesota student tuition for the next two years. The committee also made a significant investment in research that promises to keep Minnesota’s industry and economy strong. Gov. Dayton’s budget supported the U’s proposal at similar levels.

"This is great news for Minnesota students and their families," said University President Eric Kaler. "We are grateful for the support of legislators and Governor Dayton for higher education and the University of Minnesota. This level of support is fundamental to our land-grant mission to ensure access to Minnesota students and meet our state’s most pressing challenges through research and outreach."

In his first two-year budget request as the U’s leader, Kaler sought to strengthen the state’s partnership with the university to keep tuition affordable and education accessible to qualified Minnesota students of all economic backgrounds. Coming out of conference committee, the bill provides the requested $14.2 million annually to freeze tuition for Minnesota resident undergraduates for two years (the 2014-15 biennium). The university’s tuition is currently $13,309 on the Twin Cities campus.

Additionally, legislators voted to annually invest approximately $18 million to fund the Minnesota Discover, Research and InnoVation Economy (MnDRIVE) program, to advance scientific research in four critical fields. The four areas align U research strengths with the state’s needs and emerging industries: food production, defense and protection; robotics; water quality issues; and neuromodulation, a growing area in the medical device industry that addresses brain disorders from Alzheimer’s disease to addiction.

The bill also requires the university to meet certain performance metrics to receive 5 percent of its state budget allocation. Those metrics focus on graduation rates, STEM degrees, administrative costs and invention disclosures. Mid-session, the university satisfied legislators’ requests for information about its efficiency and organizational structure. A report by outside experts explained the U’s personnel spans and layers, including central administration units, and outlined plans for a subsequent benchmarking study.

"Our focus on freezing student tuition set the tone for the session," Kaler said. "High targets conveyed the importance policymakers placed on investing in the state’s only research university and reversed the trend of deep cuts to higher education. Legislators recognize the important role the U plays in advancing the state’s economy, driving innovation and preparing the workforce of tomorrow."

As it stands, the bill provides approximately the same amount of funding the state allocated to the U in 2001, when the university served 15 percent fewer students and before the establishment of the U of M Rochester campus.

The conference committee report will next go to the floors of the House and Senate for votes by the end of the regular session Monday. It will then go to Gov. Dayton for signing.

For more information on the University of Minnesota’s 2014-15 biennial budget request, visit z.umn.edu/1415request.

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