- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The University of Minnesota proposed maintaining a 2012 tuition freeze for two more years and to expand it to graduate and professional schools.

University President Eric Kaler requested $65 million for the extension from the Legislature in the budget presented Thursday to the school’s board of regents. It would avoid increases of 3 percent to 3.5 percent, keeping yearly undergraduate tuition at $12,060 at the Twin Cities campus.

“Somebody who entered in 2012 would pay the same tuition throughout her time at the university, which I think is a good thing,” Kaler said.

The proposal would boost the university’s annual state funding to nearly $685 million in 2017, the same amount it received in 2008, before the recession, according to Kaler. He and other university officials hope to “try to get back to where we were before the substantial cuts began.”

The state spent $42 million for the first two-year undergraduate tuition freeze. The school estimates the extension would save freshmen about $2,100-$2,600 over four years, depending on the campus.

State Sen. Terri Bonoff chairs the Senate Finance Committee’s higher education division. She said she supports the tuition freeze but is concerned about how it would affect taxpayers.

“The question I had for them is, ‘OK, so you’re not raising tuition; why do the costs increase so much that we have to buy that freeze?’” she said. “In general, we all want to do what we can to start bringing that price tag down.”

The University of Minnesota also hopes to secure an additional $34.5 million to expand training for health professionals, as well as $12.5 million for research to stimulate economic development in state industries, including mining, and $12.5 million for basic maintenance.

If the package isn’t approved by the state Legislature, the university still may have to increase tuition.

“We’ve got to see how it plays out,” Kaler said. “We think we have a good story to tell. I’m eager to have those conversations with the governor and Legislature.”

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