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NDSU President Bresciani defends tuition increase

Press Photo by Ashley Martin Members of the Legislature's Interim Higher Education Committee discuss an 8.8 percent increase in tuition at North Dakota State University during a meeting at the State Capitol Building in Bismarck Tuesday.

BISMARCK -- North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani defended an 8.8 percent tuition increase students are paying this fall during the Legislature's Interim Higher Education Committee meeting Tuesday afternoon at the State Capitol Building.

NDSU was the only campus in the university system that asked for an increase greater than 2.5 percent.

"The 8.8 really isn't as exceptional as it may sound on first blush," Bresciani said. "In the last decade, NDSU has averaged 8.15 percent."

He said the increase was needed because NDSU is underfunded.

"There's nothing new coming out of this, we're not getting ahead," Bresciani said. "This is simply to maintain our current operations."

Rep. Bob Martinson told Bresciani all the campuses in the system need money, and said the increase causes credibility questions.

He said legislators were going to freeze tuition, but were assured no campuses would ask for more than a 2.5 percent tuition increase.

Rep. Kathy Hawken disagreed.

"I don't know that at any point we said no school would ask for an exception," Hawken said. "I also remember hearing, sitting in that committee room, from more than one president that we did need to do some things differently. We didn't choose to do that as a Legislature."

Martinson said the State Board of Higher Education should have asked more questions before granting the increase.

"You had to have known during the session that you were going to ask for a tuition increase and it amazes me that when you came before the board of education and asked for a tuition increase, you said that you would cut programs if you didn't get it," Martinson said. "I think you've almost guaranteed yourself a freeze."

Brusciani said he did not realize NDSU would not get the "traditional level of funding" and that cutting programs would be damaging.

"Quite frankly, I'm not sure that many of the state board members anticipated granting this until they saw the statistics and the situation I inherited at NDSU," Bresciani said.

Rep. Mark Dosch said he was shocked at the increase.

"Are you trying to tell us that the State Board of Higher Education is so out of touch with what's going on, and our university system, that they had no idea that the 2.5 percent was grossly underfunded?" he asked.

Bresciani said funding has not kept up over the last decade.

"As a legislator, it really makes me angry when we see stuff that NDSU has received steadily diminishing levels of support, when I know that in the last 10 years the support of higher ed has been at historic levels," Dosch said. "I think we have to be a little bit careful and not mislead the general public when we talk about diminishing levels of support."