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State would pick up more of the tab for new campus projects under bill

You probably know that a capital investment bill, or “bonding bill,” requires a three-fifths majority to pass. But did you know that capital investment projects undertaken by the University of Minnesota or Minnesota State typically require the systems to pitch in one-third of the cost of a capital project?

Mind you, that doesn’t apply to Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement, the funding designed to maintain buildings on the state’s public campuses. But if the university or Minnesota State want to build something new, it’s in statute that the state can’t cover more than two-thirds of the cost.

Higher education panel considers HF1630 3/12/24

But HF1630 would allow the state to cover the full cost of a capital project on one of Minnesota's public college or university campuses. Sponsored by Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr. (DFL-Winona), the bill was laid over by the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Tuesday for possible inclusion in a larger higher education bill.

“This discussion goes back to 2013 and 2014,” Pelowski said. “The concern was that this was being used as a way to increase tuition. The initial concept was if they used tuition to help pay for these projects, it would somehow slow the number of new projects. Well, it did just the opposite: It increased them. We now know that we are in a dire problem here with tuition increases, and it has impacted our enrollment and has priced a whole section of this country out of higher education.”

“Will this do anything to quell the building of brand-new buildings?” asked Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover).

“I would hope it would,” Pelowski replied. “Because those of us on the capital investment committee and finance committees with the responsibility of certain capital projects would take a look at the totality of the costs and say that some of these buildings are simply beginning to be too expensive. And putting these on the backs of students — particularly of students in the form of tuition that they would have to pay off for 10 or 20 years — is simply obnoxious."

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