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Minnesota State universities' tuition rising 3.9%, colleges 1%

ST. PAUL — Tuition will rise by 3.9 percent at state universities and 1 percent at state colleges, but a rate freeze will follow in 2018-19.

The seven universities on average will charge $7,289 for full-time tuition next school year, an increase of $272. The colleges on average will charge $4,815 — up $48.

Trustees of Minnesota State (formerly MnSCU) approved a $2.02 billion budget Wednesday, June 21, but tuition rates were somewhat out of their control.

The Legislature barred the state colleges from raising tuition rates any more than 1 percent next year and mandated the second-year freeze for universities and colleges. Minnesota State system leaders were free to raise university rates as high as necessary, and Chancellor Steven Rosenstone imposed a 4 percent limit.

Minda Nelson, president of the state college student association, praised lawmakers for forcing the system to reduce state college tuition in recent years and criticized Minnesota State trustees for next year's $48 increase.

"Every time this board is given the opportunity to raise tuition, you do," she said, urging trustees to "take a stand for affordability."

Trustees noted that federal and state grants will help offset the increases for low-income students.

System leaders were pleased to get a $106.3 million increase in state funding this upcoming biennium, but Minnesota State still faces major short- and long-term financial challenges. Most of the new state money comes in the first year of the biennium, and Rosenstone said the system will have to cut $34 million from the budget in 2018-19.

That number could grow if employee groups negotiate larger pay increases than the system is prepared to give. Rosenstone said system employees have a "shared responsibility" to keep education affordable.

"It may require extremely modest salary increases," he said. "We cannot spend what we do not have."

The system expects total enrollment to decline by 1.9 percent this fall, with state colleges seeing greater losses than the universities.

The system's seven universities are in Bemidji, Moorhead, St. Cloud, Marshall, Mankato and Winona, plus Metropolitan State in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Its 30 colleges span the state.