College students may see tuition increase

Published 7:14 am Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Students at Riverland Community College could see their tuition and fees go up $223 this fall.

These students would be alongside those in all 32 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities as tuition expenses increase hundreds of dollars next fall to accommodate for a loss of state funding.

The latest budget proposal from Gov. Tim Pawlenty cuts $10 million from MnSCU and $36 million from the University of Minnesota as part of the effort to make up the $1.2 billion needed to balance the state budget.

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The proposed 2011 MnSCU budget calls for undergraduates in the system’s colleges to pay an average of $210 more in tuition and fees annually — $301 for students in universities.

This would amount to a 4.5 percent increase for students at the 25 state colleges, who would pay an average of $4,907 next school year. Students at the seven state universities would pay an average of $6,596 or 4.8 percent more this year, according to a MnSCU news release published Monday.

“In the face of declining state support, the colleges and universities have made significant budget cuts even though enrollments are increasing rapidly,” Chancellor James H. McCormick said in the release.

McCormick said the proposed increases will help maintain programs and services at MnSCU schools, however the additional tuition revenue will not entirely fill the gap left by the state — cuts will be necessary.

College and university presidents are balancing their budgets by reducing travel and equipment expenses, eliminating administrative support, increasing class sizes, limiting course offerings, and restructuring and closing programs among other cuts, according to the release.

At Riverland, potential cuts may include elimination of positions, said Beth Fondell, the college’s vice president of finance and facilities.

“Positions that will be vacated due to upcoming retirements or resignations are being evaluated for possible elimination or restructuring,” she said.

Riverland is also currently working on ways to reduce energy consumption to keep costs down.

“Courses are being scheduled in centralized spaces during non-peak times so the ventilation systems can be turned off in vacant parts of the buildings,” Fondell said. “An investment in new windows and doors in the Austin east building is expected to reduce energy consumption by 43 percent in that building.”

Fondell said some Riverland courses will likely be canceled, with chances for this increasing in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

“With a double-digit enrollment increase from last year, this process is especially challenging because many classrooms and programs are currently near or at maximum capacity,” Fondell said.

Riverland will review course offerings before making decisions on reductions for the coming years.

“The college’s top priority has been and continues to be preserving quality instruction to students,” Fondell said.

When adjusted for inflation, MnSCU expects to spend 4.5 percent less per-student than it did in fiscal year 2002, according to the release.

The MnSCU board will have a public hearing on the proposed budget which includes the recommended tuition increases from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. today in St. Paul.

The trustees are expected to act on the tuition proposal at their May 19 board meeting.