ST. PAUL — Minnesota state college and university students won't pay more in tuition when they resume classes this fall.

Minnesota State's board of trustees voted in favor Wednesday, June 17, of a budget that preserves the tuition rate at its current level. But that same budget will see the tuition grow by 3% the following spring.

The school system, like other state institutions, faces a budget reckoning brought on by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing economic recession.

The overall budget for 2021 approved Wednesday totaled $2.1 billion, approximately 1.8% lower than that of the previous year. It includes a $1.7 billion general fund stabilized by roughly $58 million in fund balance.

State appropriations look to make up even more of that general fund's revenue stream than tuition will, having differed by only $8 million last year. But in 2021, state appropriations will make up about $765 million in revenue compared to $710 million in tuition.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

A dip in enrollment worse than what was previously projected is partly to blame, and is unlikely to be offset by springtime tuition hikes. Across the system's 30 colleges and seven universities, enrollment could decline by roughly 8% this fall compared to fall 2020.

As a result, tuition revenue could dip to about $710 million, down $40 million or 5.4% from the year before.

On a press call Wednesday afternoon, Chancellor Devinder Malhotra reiterated that school officials expect enrollment to rebound somewhat come spring. And even as enrollment in state schools continues to fluctuate in a decade-long downward trend, he said that it is still strong compared to other institutions in the state, making up approximately 65% of all undergraduate admissions in Minnesota.

"Enrollment is a high priority for us. We are the biggest higher education provider in the state of Minnesota," he said.

Officials touted the 2,200 workforce development scholarships it expects to make available this year as another bright spot. But although the school system has enough in savings across its accounts to absorb the cost of the tuition freeze, Minnesota State Vice Chancellor of Finance Bill Maki told members of the board's finance committee Wednesday morning that it will have to postpone the purchase of some instructional equipment as a compromise.

Trustees signed off on the budget Wednesday as Minnesota State gears up to move as many classes and activities back on its campuses as it safely can. Classes moved online at the onset of pandemic in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Tuition at Minnesota State colleges start at approximately $5,000 per year while universities in the system run about $8,000 per year, rates that will stay in place this fall.