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Minnesota State chancellor tells higher ed committee it needs $61 million boost

The Minnesota State system received a budget boost in the 2023 higher education law, but was it enough?

Chancellor Scott Olson emphasized to the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday that most of the increase was one-time money, and that costs are up more than expected. Hence, officials for the 53-school Minnesota State system put in a request for an additional $61 million in the next biennium.

House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee 2/20/24

Olson said the additional funding would mostly go toward larger expenses in compensation, saying that 75% of the system’s budget is “in people.” And speaking of people…

“There is generally good news on the enrollment front,” Olson said. “Enrollment is showing improvement over fiscal ’23, and most colleges are experiencing better enrollments than they were projecting last June. [Systemwide] enrollment is up for the first time in a decade. I believe much of this is attributable to the work of the Legislature, what you did to address affordability, freezing tuition, creating the North Star Promise [free tuition for qualifying students], etc. That does have a huge effect on enrollment.”

Applications for next fall are up 18%, and Olson believes the North Star Promise program contributes greatly to that.

[MORE: See Minnesota State’s presentation]

Rep. Marion Rarick (R-Maple Lake) asked what schools within the system were doing to “right-size.” Bill Maki, Minnesota State’s vice chancellor for finance and facilities, said the system is reducing personnel and the costs of managing facilities.

Rarick also spoke of degenerating facilities on some campuses, a subject Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth) also took up, saying that she is appalled by the amount of deferred maintenance on Minnesota State campuses.

The committee chair, Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr. (DFL-Winona), said bonding requests for asset preservation and replacement should be the committee’s top priority, adding that discussions of those proposals will take place in the committee next week.

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