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Tuition hikes may be on ice

PIERRE -- Later this week, the state Board of Regents will discuss whether to ask the Legislature next year for a freeze on tuition and fees for state university students.

The regents, whose members govern South Dakota's public universities, have set aside a full day for informal budget hearings Thursday as part of their regular business meeting at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

Tuition and mandatory fees rose sharply during the past decade. For an undergraduate resident student at a state university, tuition and mandatory fees for two semesters climbed from about $4,800 in the 2004-05 school year to about $7,900 for 2013-14.

Holding tuition and fees steady for fall 2014 would require at least $3.6 million of additional state funding from the Legislature in the 2014 session to cover 3 percent raises, insurance and operating expense inflation.

Adding 1 percent salary competitiveness raises would take the total to nearly $4.6 million, according to a summary prepared for the regents.

The regents also are looking at whether to request more maintenance and repair funding from the Legislature as a match to fees paid by students.

A three- to four-year phasein would cost approximately $1.6 million to $1.7 million of additional state funding annually to cover a current gap of about $7 million.

Another idea under consideration by the regents is asking the Legislature for a one-time sum of $2 million that the universities could use to pay for patent protection and invention disclosures as part of more emphasis on research and development.

Each of the university campuses has submitted its three budget priorities:

• Black Hills State University wants to put more money into research infrastructure and programs to help increase student success, as well as invest in the underground laboratory at Lead.

• Dakota State University would like to create an advising center for students and channel money into research and into affordability efforts, such as student need-based grants and student employment opportunities on campus.

• Northern State University wants to focus on better recruitment and retention of students, invest in science facilities and equipment, and expand its e-Learning program to reach more high school students.

• The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology seeks to increase affordability through need-based scholarships and temporary housing stipends, improve student retention from freshman to sophomore years, and put more emphasis on research, entrepreneurship and innovation.

• South Dakota State University wants more student advisers, new science infrastructure and approaches such as an integrated bioscience and engineering laboratory, and need-based scholarships.

• The University of South Dakota wants to expand and staff its research center in Sioux Falls, add a master's degree in public health in conjunction with SDSU, and improve student success through career advisers and expansion of the Institute for American Indian Students.

Budget increases will also be considered for the Cooperative Extension Service, the Agriculture Experiment Station, the Sanford Medical School and the state school for the blind and visually handicapped.

The regents' goal is arrive at their final set of budget requests during their next meeting in August.