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Bruininks to present U of M budget, though state aid remains uncertain

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus is seen in a file photo. With the state budget undecided, education funding, and the U of M's own budget, is uncertain.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks will present next year's budget to the school's of board of regents Friday, even though he doesn't know how much state aid the university will get because of the budget impasse between Gov. Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature.  

  Student Katie Doroschak, 18, just finished her freshman year as a computer science major. She's has heard talk of a tuition increase in the U's next budget.     

"It is definitely going to be a challenge to sort out and figure out what my options are," Doroschak said.

  Right now, Doroschak pays tuition using a combination of work-study funds, scholarships and some money from her parents. But she said an increase in tuition would force her to find more money to pay her school bill.   

"Definitely working more; relying a little bit more on personal budgeting and things like that," she said. "But also having my parents help me out a little bit more. Hopefully I won't have to take out a loan, but ultimately that might be the solution."  

For an in-state undergrad like Doroschak, the U of M's budget holds a five percent tuition increase next year, putting a year of tuition at $11,650.  Out-of-state students will see a bigger increase, 8.2 percent.  Under the proposal their tuition bill would be $16,650.

Katie Doroschak
Katie Doroschak, 18, just finished up her freshman year at the University of Minnesota. Doroschak says a tuition increase would require her to borrow money and work more to pay for school.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

  But there's another increase in the cards for in-state undergrads. They're losing a $420 scholarship they got in each of the last two years to ease their tuition bills.    The U's chief financial officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said that money was courtesy of the federal stimulus package.   

"But regrettably for a returning student, a junior this year that will be a senior for example in the fall, that scholarship we provide for Minnesota resident undergraduates goes away because the stimulus goes away," Pfutzenreuter said.   The overall increase in tuition is one part of the U's plan to make up for cuts in state aid.  Because of the budget impasse, U officials aren't exactly sure what those cuts will be.  

Pfutzenreuter is assuming they'll receive almost $71 million less in state funding than they did this year.  That's based on the cuts in a higher education bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature.  It was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton.  

  "There's not only the uncertainty of what our appropriation levels will be, but we're not at all certain when the state budget problems are actually going to be resolved," Pfutzenreuter said.

  To deal with the expected cuts to state aid, the U's budget slashes tens of millions of dollars out of academic programs.  Employees also face a wage freeze, increases in their medical premiums, and the specter of layoffs. 

  Phyllis Walker heads up the union — AFSCME Local 3800 —  that represents 1,600 clerical workers at the U.   Walker said the U of M's front line workers, like secretaries and support staff, fear they'll take the brunt of any job reductions. 

  "In this job market the way it is, they don't know if they'll be able to find anything to take its place or if they'll have to work two or three part-time jobs and not have health insurance," Walker said.

  U officials say they hope to buffer layoffs by offering early retirement incentives. They say in the last two years, 800 employees took such offers, meaning fewer layoffs were needed to balance the budget.

  The U's budget is based on numbers that could change, depending on what happens at the state Capitol.

  If cuts to the U of M are less than anticipated, Bruininks' budget stipulates a third of the money would go to reduce the tuition increase, a third would help ease cuts to academic programs, and a third would go toward the 2013 budget, which is expected to be a tough one as well.   

Bruininks also takes into consideration the threat of a July 1 state shutdown in his budget.  His plan is for the U to operate normally without the help of state money, at least for a few months, by using reserve funds.