U of M’s Kaler Outlines Plans for $50M Budget Bonus

Among the appropriation recommendations that President Eric Kaler will make to the Board of Regents are reducing a planned tuition hike and distributing a one-time scholarship for low- and middle-income undergrads.

For the first time in his presidency, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler will outline his recommendations for investments in the state's largest post-secondary institution-and they include softening a planned tuition hike and doling out one-time scholarships to low- and middle-income students.

On Friday, Kaler will present to the Board of Regents a plan for allocating an unanticipated $50 million that the State of Minnesota appropriated to the U of M during last month's special legislative session.

In June, the board approved a provisional $520.3 million-per-year budget based on a higher education bill that the university called the “worst-case scenario.” But the state appropriation approved during the special session was $25 million more than that-or $545.3 million for both the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years.

The university's fiscal 2012 began on July 1. Even with the higher-than-expected appropriation, the school's state funding is still down 7.8 percent for the current two-year budget period.

“A budget is more than just numbers, it's a reflection of priorities and values. These recommendations underscore mine: to reduce the burden of tuition on students and families and to make strategic investments to drive excellence at the university,” Kaler said in a statement.

The U of M said that it's too late in the billing cycle to help students pay for this fall's tuition and fees. But under Kaler's plan, this spring, low- and middle-income undergraduate students would get a one-time scholarship averaging $310. That equates to $4.15 million doled out to 46 percent of the undergraduate student body.

Kaler's plan also calls for $8.3 million to reduce next year's undergraduate tuition increase from an expected 5 percent to 3.5 percent. According to the Star Tribune, tuition and fees have doubled over the past 10 years and reached $13,060 for Minnesota residents this school year-a figure that doesn't include room and board.

“We asked students to help shoulder the pain of budget reductions, and it is only fair that we take a proportional share of this increase in our allocation and give it back to students,” Kaler said in a statement.

Other allocations called for in Kaler's plan:

  • $6 million over three years for Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships, a program that supports timely graduate degree completion.
  • $4 million annually for new faculty hires, particularly in the science, technology, education, and math fields; the Carlson School of Management; and the College of Liberal Arts. According to the U, this move would restore about 20 of the more than 50 faculty lines that remain open as a result of budget reductions over the past few years.
  • $3.05 million annually for a program that trains medical professionals and helps immigrant doctors qualify to practice in Minnesota.
  • $800,000 annually to support the College of Veterinary Medicine's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.
  • $150,000 for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, which would give additional students the opportunity to work on various research projects with faculty.
  • $150,000 annually for the College of Pharmacy.