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U Of M President Presents Tuition Hike

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: Jupiter Images)

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The University of Minnesota will eliminate hundreds of jobs, cut millions of dollars in academic programs, freeze wages and raise tuition rates as part of a budget presented Friday by outgoing President Robert Bruininks.

“We have to budget and plan for the worst-case scenario,” Bruininks said at a meeting of the university’s Board of Regents.

That scenario includes a cut of $71 million in state aid to $520.3 million next year. That’s the figure the Republican-controlled Legislature has passed and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed as too low. If their stalemate over the state budget continues through July 1, the state government could shut down and state funding for the university system would stop.

Bruininks said the university had sufficient reserves to continue classes, research and caring for patients in its health care operations, but only for a short time. And he won’t be there to manage the crisis; Bruininks plans to step down June 30 after nine years as the school’s leader.

In his final budget proposal, Bruininks said the university projects overall revenue of about $3.3 billion for the next fiscal year. State aid pays for about 17 percent, with tuition and fees making up another 29 percent. The rest comes from sponsored research, gifts endowments and investments, and other student fees.

The university plans to cover about two-thirds of the $71 million shortfall through budget cuts, including eliminating about 100 open faculty jobs, freezing wages, eliminating more than 100 non-teaching jobs and passing more health care costs along to employees. Bruininks said the faculty and staff would be “taking it in the neck.”

The budget would also raise nearly $45 million in tuition and fees. Tuition will increase 5 percent for most resident undergraduates. Professional and graduate students would see their tuitions increase from 3.3 percent to 9.3 percent.

The increases will feel steeper to many students, because they received a $420 scholarship in each of the past two years to put toward tuition. That money, paid for by the federal stimulus law, has run out.

Provost Tom Sullivan said students will be able to other results of the cuts. For example, he said, students in science, technology, engineering and math areas will have fewer course offerings and larger class sizes.

“We are not going to be able to hire the right number of faculty in the right areas with the budget that we have built,” he said.

Bruininks said the cuts will eventually hurt the quality of education offered at the university. “I do believe there is a point where quality will be adversely affected, but I don’t think we’re close to that,” he said.

Bruininks told the regents if the Legislature and Dayton agree on state budget that sends more than $520.3 million a year to the university, the extra money would be split about evenly between reducing the tuition hikes and softening the planned cuts to academic programs.

The regents are scheduled to vote on the budget on June 20. On Friday, several regents seemed resigned to approving another budget full of cuts.

“It will be painful to vote for, but I will,” said Regent Patricia Simmons.

During a public hearing after the meeting, Cherrene Horazuk, a university clerical worker and chief steward of American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 3800, urged the regents not to look for more cuts at the bottom of the university’s pay scale.

“We did not cause this economic crisis and we cannot and will not sacrifice any more to resolve it,” she said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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