Tuition will be frozen at Minnesota’s public two-year colleges and seven state universities under a budget approved Wednesday.

The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities’ $1.9 billion budget makes use of a state funding boost to hold next year’s tuition to this year’s rate. Fees will stay nearly flat. Combined, tuition and fees will average $7,344 at the seven state universities, just $3 more than last year. At the two-year colleges, the price tag will be $5,360.

“The budget is very good for students across the board,” said Laura King, the system’s chief financial officer.

More than 200,000 students are enrolled in credit-bearing courses in the MnSCU system.

The board of trustees unanimously approved the 2014 budget, which spends $61.9 million more than in 2013, a 3.4 percent increase. The plan includes a 2.6 percent compensation increase for faculty and staff. It pledges $22 million in reallocations.

State funding for MnSCU in 2014 will rise $42.5 million to $587.9 million, a 7.8 percent increase. Most of that new money will offset a proposed 3 percent tuition increase.

The effect of the two-year tuition freeze will be amplified by changes to the State Grant Program, which gives need-based aid to families. Thanks to a change meant to benefit working, part-time students, about 8,300 more MnSCU students will receive the grants next year.

Most students will pay less

Combined with increases in the federal Pell Grant program, most MnSCU students will pay less next year, the system says.

The average State Grant recipient taking a full course load at one of the two-year colleges will pay $1,421 in tuition in 2013-14. Students from families making less than $20,000 a year will pay just $737.

“That’s remarkable,” said Chancellor Steven Rosenstone. “That’s something we should be proud of.”

The average room and board rate will increase 2.8 percent, to $7,245. Average student union fees will fall, slightly.

With the tuition freeze and expected enrollment declines, MnSCU expects a $4.6 million decrease in tuition revenues in 2014, the budget says. After years of rapid growth, the system expects 2013 full-year enrollment to come in at 2.1 percent less than in 2012. Next year, enrollment could fall slightly once more.

“It is a difficult budget to our campuses,” King said.

Question about new buildings

The trustees also approved a $286.5 million capital plan that includes a request for $227.7 million in state funding for new buildings, renovation and demolition.

About $110 million would be spent on repair and renovation projects.

“Taking care of what we have” is the system’s top priority, said Brian Yolitz, associate vice chancellor for facilities.

Trustee Philip Krinkie questioned why, given that a fifth of the system’s enrollment is in online courses, “we’re building new buildings when we have a crying need to try to maintain … our existing facilities.”

But Rosenstone defended the request’s breakdown as “disciplined.” About 17.9 percent of its square footage would go toward new facilities. New buildings are focused on high-demand fields aided by in-person instruction, he said. The system’s total square footage would decrease, the request says, after subtracting what would be demolished.