U of M wants another tuition freeze ... if Legislature hikes funding

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That two-year tuition freeze at the University of Minnesota was so popular the U wants another one. But only on the condition that the Legislature boosts state funding of the university by 10 percent over the biennium.

That's the cornerstone of a budget proposal U of M President Eric Kaler is presenting to the Board of Regents on Friday, the Minnesota Daily reports.

The two-year tuition freeze that started in 2012 applied to in-state tuition for undergraduates. Under Kaler's proposal, that freeze would be extended for another two years and expanded to include graduate and professional programs.

In return, Kaler wants to see the Legislature boost state funding of the university by 10.6 percent over the two years. The Star Tribune says that would restore state support to its peak level of 2008 and would amount to a $127 million increase.

If the Regents sign off on Kaler's plan, that will be the funding proposal the university brings to the State Capitol next year.

Kaler tells MPR News that without such a deal the university would face raising tuition for undergrads by 3 percent and a 3.5 percent hike for graduate students.

He's optimistic about his plan's chances at the Capitol, telling MPR "People understand very clearly that freezing tuition drives accessibility and affordability for middle-class Minnesota families."

Ryan Winkler of Golden Valley, who sits on the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, tweeted his support for the proposal almost immediately.

But Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka, a DFLer who chairs the Senate Finance Committee's higher education division, is not sure taxpayers should pay for the university's tuition freeze. Bonoff tells the Pioneer Press she's skeptical that the state budget will have room for a 10 percent increase in higher ed spending.

"Has the economy grown enough to support a 10 percent increase?" Bonoff asks."That's not something I would bet on."

Separately, the U of M laid out for regents a plan to expand its Rochester campus. The Post Bulletin reports that over 20 years the downtown campus would grow to include seven buildings.

ABC 6 News says the university envisions the number of Rochester students nearly doubling within ten years, from today's 800 to 1,500 in a decade.

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