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MnSCU bonding request offered

Published (2/15/2008)
By Mike Cook
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Officials from the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system acknowledge that a reduction in their bonding request would put them further behind.

MnSCU officials shared its $350.2 million proposed capital budget with the House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division Feb. 12. No action was taken.

Of the proposal, $273 million would come from state dollars, with the rest self-financed.

“Every state college and university in the system will benefit from this proposal,” said Chancellor James McCormick.

However, in his bonding proposal, Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposes $99.4 million in general obligation bonding, including $40 million for asset preservation. The system seeks $110 million for things like roof and exterior repairs, mechanical and electrical improvements and elevator and fire safety code upgrades. Requests from the individual campuses to MnSCU administration exceeded $303 million, $68.5 million more than was requested two years ago.

Allan Johnson, MnSCU associate vice chancellor for facilities, said the system’s current backlog in asset preservation is estimated at $672 million, in part because of limited state money in past biennia and because buildings are getting older.

Other projects on the governor’s list include $25.5 million for a science center renovation at Minnesota State University, Mankato; $14.8 million for a science building renovation at St. Cloud State University to meet the needs of students in the nursing and pre-nursing programs; $13.5 million for a transportation and applied technology renovation at St. Paul College; $13.2 million for classroom additions and renovations at Inver Hills Community College; and $5.8 million in systemwide science lab improvements.

“While the repair and maintenance of our current structures is important, Minnesota colleges cannot offer a quality education without new and improved facilities on campuses,” said Scott Formo, president of the Minnesota State College Student Association.

Jered Weber, a board member of the Minnesota State University Student Association, said that fewer state funds could put more of a burden on students with increased tuition to meet system needs.

The University of Minnesota shared its $225.5 million request for state bonding with the division on Valentine’s Day.

The request includes $100 million for asset preservation, $48.3 million for a new building to contain science classrooms and student support services on the Minneapolis campus, $26 million to renovate Folwell Hall on the Minneapolis campus, $24 million for a new Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus, $10 million for a building to house the civil engineering program in Duluth and $7.5 million for a Gateway center in Morris.

Pawlenty’s recommendation is for $129 million, including $40 million for asset preservation, but zero for the museum.

“Our ability to carry out our mission will be compromised without continued, sustained investment in buildings and infrastructure,” said President Robert Bruininks.

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