Minnesota State colleges, universities seek $541 million in state funding for construction projects


Leaders at St. Paul College would like to improve classrooms for math, business, computer science and technical programs. Administrators at […]

Leaders at St. Paul College would like to improve classrooms for math, business, computer science and technical programs.

Administrators at Minnesota State University, Mankato want help replacing the “heavily used but functionally and operationally obsolete” Armstrong Hall that housed many general education courses.

Altogether, 28 schools in the Minnesota State system of colleges and universities could use upgrades to their roofs, heating, exteriors and safety systems.

Minnesota State system leaders outlined the projects — and a litany of others — as they asked state officials for $541.4 million to help cover construction projects. And the system’s trustees are set to vote this week on whether they should also ask for $61 million to help cover other system operations.

“This is a basic stewardship responsibility to preserve state resources we already own and operate and need and to provide learning and teaching spaces that are warm, safe, dry and inviting,” Brian Yolitz, associate vice chancellor for facilities, told trustees in a meeting this year.

It’s unlikely the system will receive its full request. Gov. Tim Walz has said lawmakers will likely aim for a $1 billion bonding bill, and requests totaling $7.4 billion already have been made. The requests from Minnesota’s public higher education institutions alone total more than $1 billion.

The University of Minnesota is asking for about $500 million to help with more than 150 construction projects scattered across four of its five campuses and 11 research and outreach centers. The Minnesota State system has 33 schools with a combined 54 campuses.

Leaders in both systems say they face a construction backlog, in part because state officials haven’t provided adequate funding to cover their needs in prior years. For preservation projects, “we average about 31% of our requests over the last decade,” Yolitz said.

Minnesota State trustees will also vote Wednesday on whether to ask the state for an additional $61 million to support operations, money that would largely be meant to help offset the impacts of inflation. The system is on track to receive roughly $923 million in state funding to support its operations next year.

In a meeting this fall, some trustees asked if the system should request more money. They said some schools are already cutting staff or programs to try to reduce costs.

“I would just simply add to it that, remember, we’re also asking for a half-billion dollars of bonding and asset preservation [money]. That calculates into all of this,” said Board Chair Roger Moe, a former state Senate majority leader.

Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, chair of the House higher education committee, has told leaders at both public university systems that there are no guarantees lawmakers will grant additional budget requests this year.

Star Tribune staff writer Rochelle Olson contributed to this report.

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