Posted: December 4, 1996

Contact: Doug Anderson,, 651-201-1426

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will seek financial support from the 1997 Legislature for initiatives to enhance student access, improve performance and effectively manage the system.

The 1998-99 biennial budget request, adopted today by the MnSCU Board of Trustees, seeks $127.9 million in new funding to achieve the system's administrative and educational objectives.

"This is not a routine budget request," said Chancellor Judith Eaton. "We are asking the Legislature to help us build a 21st century system of higher education.

"MnSCU is taking a new approach to public higher education in Minnesota -- one that is learning centered, performance based, technology driven and innovation focused. Our legislative request seeks an investment in fundamental change that benefits students, taxpayers and the Minnesota economy," Eaton said.

Also today, the Board of Trustees approved a planning range for tuition increases, if any, of 0 to 5 percent for the 1997-98 academic year. Each MnSCU institution will propose its own tuition rate within that range after discussions with students. The chancellor will review those proposals and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees, which will act in May 1997 on tuition levels for each college and university.

Board members said allowing each institution to propose its own tuition level provides important autonomy for the colleges and universities, allowing them to respond to their particular needs. Revenues from any tuition revenues would be retained by the individual institutions.

The board also asked the chancellor to develop recommendations on long-term tuition strategies for each college and university, consistent with each institution's tuition strategy.

In its budget request, MnSCU is seeking new funding to enhance student access ($14 million), implement six strategic initiatives ($49.9 million), improve college and university performance ($49 million) and to develop management information systems ($15 million).

Besides the new funding, MnSCU is requesting a state appropriation of $909,699,000 to support the educational programs and services offered by its 37 colleges and universities during the 1998-99 biennium, which begins on July 1, 1997.

Eaton said the funding request reflects MnSCU's commitment to putting students first. The requested funding would benefit students through:

  • enhanced access to higher education, resulting from increased financial aid for the most financially needy students;
  • improved performance through implementing the initiatives contained in the MnSCU Strategic Plan. The plan, adopted today by the Board of Trustees, provides for wider use of instructional technology, expanded student transfer opportunities among MnSCU institutions, improvements in career education, a review of educational programs to ensure they meet student and employer demands, an initiative to measure student learning gains; and a strengthened partnership between MnSCU and K-12 education; and
  • effective management, including development of an integrated student records system and a funding request to reward colleges and universities for improved performance.

"In addition to its student focus, MnSCU's legislative request also would benefit a broad range of Minnesota taxpayers," Eaton said. "Our request seeks an investment in a higher education system that will meet the educational needs of Minnesota citizens throughout their lives.

"MnSCU offers a vital educational pathway toward an enhanced quality of life and economic competitiveness for the people of this state," she said. "Our colleges and universities are devoted to meeting state needs and students' needs in the years ahead.

"But MnSCU can't do it alone. We need the Legislature's help. Minnesota needs to invest in its future by supporting public higher education," Eaton said.

Minnesota's investment in higher education has diminished in recent years because of other demands on the state budget, Eaton said. Since 1987, higher education has seen its share of the state budget decline from 15.5 percent to 11.7 percent.

"We have responded by reducing expenditures and focusing on efficiency, productivity and effectiveness. We have learned to do 'more with less,'" Eaton said.

Organizational and administrative issues dominated MnSCU's first year, she noted. The system became operational on July 1, 1995, bringing together 21 community college campuses, 34 technical college campuses and seven state universities.

In the first year a chancellor was selected, 23 neighboring community college and technical college campuses (involving 20 institutions) were consolidated into 10 institutions, the system office was reorganized and downsized, decision making became more decentralized, state and system mandates were reduced, new policies were established and the new system moved from a legislative concept to a reality.

Now, Eaton said, MnSCU has shifted its attention to educational quality and access, as reflected in the goals contained in the MnSCU Strategic Plan.

"We are asking the Legislature to make the additional investment needed to achieve these objectives," Eaton said.

"MnSCU's legislative request clearly signals our intention to become more performance based and accountable to the taxpayers," said Bill Ulland, chair of the Board of Trustees. "It also demonstrates our commitment to providing high quality education for our students and outstanding service to the people of Minnesota."

MnSCU serves approximately 145,000 students attending 37 colleges and universities at 53 campuses around the state, in addition to the Akita campus in Japan.