University of Minnesota alters budget request for Twin Cities, out-state campuses

Twin Cities students could see up to a 7% tuition hike -- and 3.5% for out-state campuses -- if Legislature rejects university’s budget proposal.

University of Minnesota Duluth and Lake Superior
An aerial view of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus and Lake Superior.
Contributed / University of Minnesota Duluth

ST. PAUL -- Twin Cities undergraduates could face anywhere from a tuition freeze to a 7% increase this fall, depending on what the Legislature does with the University of Minnesota’s latest budget request.

Budget director Julie Tonneson said the university’s budget projections usually are highly accurate, but they’re off by 3% this year because of lower than expected enrollment. “We simply just didn’t get it right,” she told the Board of Regents on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Tonneson told a legislative committee the university system is seeing fewer freshmen, transfers from other colleges, and graduate and nonresident students while also struggling to retain its own students; and, she said, students who do graduate are doing so more quickly than they used to.

The university initially had penciled in a 3.5% tuition increase for its flagship campus and 1% at the four out-state campuses -- Crookston, Duluth, Rochester, Morris -- and for the 2023-24 school year. But those numbers have been revised to 7 and 3.5%, respectively, in response to low enrollment.

Those tuition increases won’t be necessary, however, if the Legislature approves $88.5 million in new funding for the coming biennium.


The university is asking for $48 million to make up for this year’s low enrollment and another $40.5 million to freeze undergraduate tuition next year at all of its campuses.

The Board of Regents on Friday also agreed to seek $9 million to make tuition free at any of the five campuses – not just Morris – for American Indian tribal members who either live in Minnesota or live elsewhere but are enrolled in a Minnesota tribe.

22% increase

Regents approved the supplemental budget request 11-1 on Friday. Darrin Rosha voted no, saying he supports lower tuition for all students but doesn’t see how providing special benefits to one group “brings us together.”

Regent Bo Thao-Urabe disagreed with Rosha, saying “it’s our chance to do something that is right” for a group that has not been well served historically.

Steve Sviggum voted yes but didn’t like that the university wants $48 million to make up for poor budgeting.

“It doesn’t make me feel good that we’re asking government to take care of our problem,” he said.

The $97.5 million in new money the university is seeking over the coming biennium would be in addition to a $205 million request the board authorized in October to pay for core mission support, a new scholarship program for Minnesota residents attending Duluth, Crookston, Morris or Rochester, and safety and security improvements.

Altogether, that $302.5 million in new money would bring the university’s total biennial appropriation to $1.681 billion, a 22% increase over the current biennium.


Medical request

At the same time, the university is asking for $950 million from the state to acquire and operate four medical buildings belonging to Fairview Health Services as part of Fairview’s planned merger with South Dakota-based Sanford Health. Fairview and Sanford are willing to sell, but the parties seem to be far apart on what the buildings are worth.

If those acquisitions take place, the university surely would seek more state money in the coming years to fill out its vision for an academic health center, including a new hospital on the east bank Minneapolis campus.

Regents on Friday were united about pursuing that vision.

“The 5.8 million Minnesotans need to have, and deserve to have, a public academic medical center,” said Regent Ruth Johnson, a Mayo Clinic physician. “That is absolutely vital. This cannot be operated by an out-of-state, South Dakota-based health system that has very different values.


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