House higher ed bill stiffs University of Minnesota

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Republicans in the Minnesota House have released a higher education bill that does not increase funding for the University of Minnesota.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, who chairs the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Division said he was forced to make a choice when it came to funding the University and the state’s colleges and universities. He said several schools in the MnSCU system are struggling financially.

He said he thinks the U of M is better equipped to handle a funding freeze.

“They also have a capacity to raise money in all different ways," Nornes said. "The state appropriation is just a little part of their budget. We felt that they would be able to survive by increasing tuition slightly."

Nornes said lobbyists for the University of Minnesota told him they would have to increase tuition by 3 percent over the next two years if his bill becomes law.

Nornes said he wants to fund a slight tuition cut for the two year colleges within the MnSCU system, although he added there may be a small tuition increase for MnSCU's four year schools.

Democrats were quick to charge that Republicans are putting a higher priority on cutting taxes than on funding education.

“Especially in a time when we have a $2 billion budget surplus, the fact that we are not going to make the investments in higher education that would hold tuition flat for most Minnesota students and make sure that we have the kind of research capabilities that are going to move our state forward is a huge missed opportunity and the wrong direction to go,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Gov. Dayton and Senate Democrats are proposing to increase funding for the University of Minnesota and the state colleges and universities to freeze tuition for another two years.

Nornes said he's willing to work with Dayton and Senate Democrats on a higher education bill that spends more money on research at the U of M.

“What we have on the 18

th

of May will look different than what we have today,” Nornes said.

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