The University of Minnesota is requesting a significant portion of the state’s $ 7.7 billion biennial budget surplus to bolster campus security and student financial assistance, and to fund a wide range of facility repairs and academic and research initiatives.
The board of regents this month approved the additional budget request of $ 936 million, far more than the $ 274 million requested in October, before the state announced it had cash on hand.
Several regents called the request “bold” and necessary.
Janie Mayeron said it was designed to benefit Minnesota and its residents and would provide a huge return on investment.
With spending on health care and agriculture and supporting tuition fees for students at the four out-of-state campuses, Steve Sviggum said the demand was enough to create a coalition of support. legislators across the state.
“I feel a bit like my grandchildren when grandma asks them for a Christmas list, and it’s a whole page of 20 things,” Sviggum said.
Most of the requested money, $ 474 million, would be used to finance various construction projects and building maintenance. It includes the final $ 72 million for a new undergraduate chemistry teaching lab on the Twin Cities campus and $ 2 million to design the renovation of the Duluth Science Building.
This category also includes $ 400 million for what U calls Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement, or HEAPR, which means projects that protect and extend the life of facilities.
That’s double the HEAPR figure the regents agreed to ask for in October for the next session of the Legislative Assembly.
Yet, this is only a small fraction of the nearly $ 5.1 billion in HEAPR needs that the U has identified for the next 10 years.
Here’s what else in the request:
It is estimated that 12,000 students per year would benefit from new financial aid of $ 65 million.
The plan is to increase the annual family income limit of U’s signing assistance program, the Promise Scholarship, to $ 160,000 from $ 120,000, while increasing Promise rewards at all levels at less $ 1,000 per year.
Meanwhile, the U would establish a new scholarship for students from the Duluth, Morris, Crookston and Rochester campuses, which, unlike the Twin Cities, have struggled to attract students. It would be worth approximately $ 8,000 over the course of a student’s four years of enrollment.
Each of these initiatives would cost $ 30 million. The remaining $ 5 million is for improved student services in hopes of getting more students to graduate on time.
Unlike most of its supplementary request, which involves many one-off expenses, the U is asking that this $ 65 million be incorporated into its ongoing state appropriation.
The U wants $ 185 million, including $ 10 million in recurring revenue, for safety and security. This means more police and other security personnel, new security infrastructure such as lights and surveillance cameras, and IT improvements to protect against cybersecurity threats.
Regent James Farnsworth said he was very excited about the demand for security, calling it “very responsive to what we have heard” from students and parents.
The U has seen a marked increase in thefts and assaults on the Twin Cities campus and surrounding neighborhoods since George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year.
An additional $ 85 million would fund eco-friendly infrastructure upgrades, including geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, converting steam heating systems to hot water, and purchasing more electric vehicles for campuses.
Funds are also earmarked for a new mineral processing and metallurgy laboratory in Coleraine and for an expansion of a laboratory in Duluth that works on water and mining land remediation.
The U also wants $ 60 million to help start a plant and animal research initiative called Future of Animal Agriculture Research in Minnesota, or FAARM.
With significant private support, and in concert with the Minnesota state college and university system, the U plans to use the money to purchase land and design and build the initial research facilities and infrastructure.
“The complex would bring together researchers, instructors and industry participants to focus on all aspects of agriculture: animal husbandry, the crops used to feed them and the results of these interactions on soil health,” water quality, climate and the sustainability of rural economies, ”depending on the panel materials.
The request also includes $ 152 million for health projects in the Twin Cities and Duluth.
Of that amount, $ 140 million would go to a new 275,000 square foot clinical research building on the Minneapolis campus, which could open by August 2025.
The remainder would cover the costs of designing a new college of pharmacy and a medical school in downtown Duluth.
The legislature typically adopts a two-year state budget in odd-numbered years and focuses on capital budget needs in even-numbered years. Yet public college systems routinely request and sometimes receive additional operating funds in even years.
Their odds for 2022 are much better given the large surplus, although they compete with other priorities, such as Republicans’ desire for tax relief and Gov. Tim Walz’s plan to create a fund that pays off. workers on family or medical leave.
The state of Minnesota state universities and colleges system did not add to the state budget request approved by its board in November, before the big budget surplus was revealed.
At $ 60 million, the state of Minnesota’s request would increase operational funding for campuses while allowing the system to freeze tuition fees next year instead of increasing them by 3.5%.
There is also a demand to pay for workforce development and student support for mental health and basic needs.