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Published May 05, 2011, 01:51 PM

NDSU seeking 8.8 percent tuition rise next year

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University wants the state Board of Higher Education to approve an 8.8 percent tuition increase for the next school year, a much larger hike than being requested by the state's other four-year colleges.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State University wants the state Board of Higher Education to approve an 8.8 percent tuition increase for the next school year, a much larger hike than being requested by the state's other four-year colleges.

"It is actually a fairly modest increase," NDSU President Dean Bresciani said Thursday at a meeting of a board subcommittee that handles budget matters. The panel, headed by board member Duaine Espegard, includes board President Jon Backes and Vice President Grant Shaft.

"The only way that our campus community would be more upset would be if this gets turned down. They would see it as a direct affront and a purposeful cut," Bresciani said. "We're out of things to cut."

The panel declined to make a recommendation Thursday on NDSU's request. Espegard said Bresciani and other NDSU officials should present it Monday at a Bismarck State College meeting of the full board, which has eight voting members. The Board of Higher Education will make its decisions than on tuition rates for the 2011-12 academic year.

None of the 10 other colleges in North Dakota's university system are asking for increases greater than those suggested by the Legislature, which finished its 2011 session last week.

Lawmakers are pushing the state's six four-year public colleges to limit tuition increases to 2.5 percent annually during the next two years. The system's five two-year colleges have been asked to freeze their tuition rates.

NDSU now charges annual tuition of $5,639 for resident undergraduates. Its proposed increase would raise that amount to $6,135, an increase of $496, or almost 9 percent.

Sen. Raymon Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, chairman of the North Dakota Senate's Appropriations Committee, called the request "curious." Responding to a Bresciani statement that many lawmakers will support NDSU's request, Holmberg said, "Maybe legislators from Fargo will agree with it."

"I think most legislators thought we put a lot of money into higher education last session," Holmberg said Thursday.

The Legislature's 2011-13 budget for North Dakota State increased general fund support by 10.8 percent. The state's general fund is financed mostly by taxes on sales, income and energy. NDSU and other colleges also have other sources of income, including tuition, federal aid and grants.

Dustin Gawrylow, director of the North Dakota Taxpayers Association and a critic of rising college tuition, said state general fund support for NDSU has increased 76 percent since the 2003-05 budget period, from $69.3 million to $121.9 million. The figure excludes one-time expenditures, Gawrylow said.

"Certainly, it's misleading to say there have been cuts, when the budget numbers are going up," Gawrylow said. "We can't continue to see 76 percent increases over eight years, and then having our university presidents running around, crying about the underfunding of their schools."

Bresciani described NDSU as a special case, saying the university has been badly underfunded when its state support is compared to its number of full-time students.

It also receives much less than comparable universities in other states, said Bresciani and Bruce Bollinger, the university's vice president for finance and administration.

State aid to NDSU has not kept up with its enrollment growth, Bresciani said. North Dakota State counted 13,533 students during this spring's semester, an increase of almost 20 percent from five years ago.

The school's operating expenses have been flat and other costs have been trimmed, he said. NDSU's student government is backing the tuition increase, and it is not out of line when compared to the university's annual average of just over 8 percent, Bresciani said.

"We've been cutting programs for 10 years," Bresciani said. "There's no fluff, there's no fat ... This next cut will hurt."

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