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Bill holds tuition increases down

Minnesota representatives told state-run colleges and universities to hold tuition increases to a minimum the next two years.

A bill House members passed 86-46 Wednesday keeps Minnesota State Colleges and University system tuition increases to no more than 2 percent a year for the next two years. University of Minnesota tuition is capped at 3 percent annually. The vote was mostly party line, with Democrats for and Republicans against.

Tuition limits are thanks to federal economic stimulus funds the House used to soften higher budget cuts.

"The stimulus money really helped us with this bill," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said. "Thank heavens it was there. But we did make cuts to the central office."

The MnSCU system would receive $65 million and University of Minnesota $115 million of federal funds the next two years.

Both systems would receive a bit more money than under current law - $1.3 billion to MnSCU and $1.4 million to the University of Minnesota.

Tuitions rose in double digits in several recent years as lawmakers trimmed budgets.

Without the federal money, colleges and universities would have been cut 10.6 percent in the next two years, Rukavina said.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, unsuccessfully tried to strip a provision from the bill that gives lawmakers more control over the selection of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities board members.

"I think it's unnecessary that we get involved," Nornes said.

The Nornes amendment failed 85-47.

An amendment to ban human cloning at the University of Minnesota carried 71-60.

A proposal to keep state money from going to athletic scholarships for foreign students failed 82-50.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said that Bemidji State University needed foreign help to reach the collegiate hockey Frozen Four this year.

"I don't know where our team would have been this year without a few players from Canada," he said.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.