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U of Minnesota regents OK tuition freeze

  • Associated Press
  • June 13, 2014 - 8:20 PM

MINNEAPOLIS — Regents at the University of Minnesota on Friday extended a tuition freeze for a second year for undergraduate Minnesota residents and approved more than $290 million in facility projects.

The Board of Regents approved the freeze as part of a $3.6 billion budget for the 2014-15 school year.

The university agreed to hold undergraduate tuition steady for two years in 2013 as part of an agreement with Gov. Mark Dayton and the state Legislature, the Star Tribune reported. In exchange, the state increased its appropriation for the university by $42 million.

At the Twin Cities campus, undergraduate in-state tuition has remained at $12,060 since 2012.

In Greater Minnesota, tuition is slightly less — $11,720, at campuses in Duluth, Morris and Rochester; and $10,030 at Crookston. The new budget raises tuition for out-of-state and most graduate students.

The university received $119.4 million from the Legislature for its facility projects this year, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. Lawmakers provided full funding for renovations to the 87-year-old Tate Laboratory on the Twin Cities campus ($56 million) and a wellness center on the Crookston campus ($10 million). Science labs and facilities on the Twin Cities and Duluth campuses received partial funding.

The university will directly borrow an unusually high amount — more $95 million— to help fund the rest. That's partly because in a rare step, lawmakers cleared the university to borrow for the construction of a new St. Paul home for the 75-year-old James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History, now on the Minneapolis campus.

The $55 million project was not part of the university's original request following several earlier legislative rejections. Democratic lawmakers included it in their bonding proposal. But the university and legislators ultimately agreed the university would borrow the money directly, with the state chipping in for interest and other costs.

Some regents said the arrangement could be a "slippery slope."

"I'm just concerned we might get asked to take on more and more projects," Regent John Frobenius said.

University officials said the project had languished for too long and they agreed to finance it entirely with borrowed money because it was a long-neglected priority.

"We are not going to be in this business going forward," university President Eric Kaler told regents. "I made that very clear to our friends in St. Paul."

© 2014 Star Tribune