Minnesota State Colleges and Universities cheer 'breakthrough' funding from Legislature

Posted: May 23, 1997

Contact: Doug Anderson, doug.anderson@so.mnscu.edu, 651-201-1426

Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) received $110.5 million in new funding from the 1997 Legislature, an amount Chancellor Judith Eaton called a "breakthrough" after six years of tight budgets.

Eaton said the funding will translate into a variety of educational improvements at MnSCU campuses throughout the state. Those improvements will range from new and expanded use of technology in the classroom, smaller class sizes, improved libraries, stronger services to students and better management tools for the MnSCU system.

The MnSCU funding is included in a higher education bill that was signed by Governor Arne Carlson on May 19.

MnSCU began life as an integrated statewide higher education system on July 1, 1995, bringing under one roof the previously separate systems of community colleges, state universities and technical colleges. Following consolidations of several two-year colleges, the MnSCU system now comprises 36 colleges and universities with campuses in 46 communities around the state.

Preliminary estimates point to budget increases of about 8 percent for MnSCU campuses in the coming year. MnSCU had requested $128 million in new funds, over the current spending level, but Eaton expressed satisfaction at the $110.5 million granted.

The budget for the next two years was "a game plan to build a 21st century system of higher education," she said. "I believe we now have the resources to move that plan forward. This was a crucial and historic legislative session for MnSCU."

State funds allocated to MnSCU for the next two years will total $1,015,000,000. The full budget used to operate the system also includes more than $230 million in tuition paid by students each year, federal funds and other monies such as grants and funds for student financial aid and construction.

While final tuition decisions have not been made for next fall, legislators said during passage of the bill that the new funds were aimed at holding tuition increases to the rate of inflation or less.

Bill Ulland of Duluth, chair of the MnSCU Board of Trustees, said the Legislature recognized the new system as a good investment for Minnesota.

Rather than submitting a traditional budget request built on current spending patterns, Eaton and the MnSCU board proposed an innovative budget built around the six goals that are part of the system's three-year strategic plan, "Putting Students First."

The six goals are:

  • Providing academic accountability by measuring student achievement in all areas of learning.
  • Using a new skill-based transfer system to ease student mobility among MnSCU colleges and universities.
  • Rethinking career education to ensure that students get the general education and technical education skills and competencies they need for a lifetime of careers.
  • Making electronic education a core element of MnSCU to enhance teaching and learning while connecting students to the world.
  • Aligning MnSCU programs and services with the needs of communities and businesses.
  • Strengthening the partnership between MnSCU and K-12 education.

The Legislature asked MnSCU and the University of Minnesota to convene faculty task forces to work on credit transfer issues, including the transferability of technical college courses. This will occur simultaneously with planning for a switch to semesters by all public colleges and universities in the fall of 1998.

Along with funding for MnSCU and the University of Minnesota, the higher education bill passed by lawmakers contained $37 million in additional funds for student financial aid programs and a new computer system to make library materials available on all campuses.

Even though the 1997 legislative session has just ended, work is already under way on a MnSCU bonding bill for the 1998 session. This will include proposals for new construction, remodeling and repairs on many campuses throughout the state.

The MnSCU Board of Trustees is holding several public hearings to review building proposals and will adopt its capital budget later in the year. As it did in the operating budget proposal this year, the board is expected to link its building requests to its strategic plan.

Here is the schedule of public hearings on the capital bonding proposals:

May 27, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. --Hennepin Technical College, 9000 Brooklyn Blvd., Brooklyn Park.

May 28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Itasca Community College, 1851 E. Highway 169, Grand Rapids.

June 4, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- South Central College, 1225 S.W. Third St., Faribault.