MnSCU board mulls next steps after Capitol request comes up short

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities officials on Wednesday backed a budget providing tuition relief at two-year colleges.

They also talked over ways to cover a future $21 million budget gap.

MnSCU had asked lawmakers for $142 million in additional funding. It got about 70 percent of that, and now has a budget of about $4 billion over two years. System officials say the increase wasn't enough to fund tuition freezes that lawmakers told them to carry out over the next two years.

Without the ability to raise tuition, the system needs to consider budget cuts and must try to bring in more money by boosting enrollment, Chancellor Steven Rosenstone told trustees at their regular monthly meeting Wednesday.

"There is no magic here," he said.

MnSCU officials say a strong job market, combined with smaller high-school graduating classes, have rolled enrollment back to pre-recession levels. They expect enrollment this coming year to decrease by 1.8 percent to the equivalent of about 136,000 full-time students.

Trustees, as expected, also approved a budget that will provide tuition relief to students at the two-year colleges.

Under next year's proposed budget, tuition at two-year colleges, which averages about $4,800 a year, would remain frozen this coming academic year. The plan would then cut it by one percent the following year.

Tuition at state universities would rise 3.4 percent next year, an average of $233, to just over $7,000, but it would stay at that level the following year.

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