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MnSCU's technology spending raises fresh tuition concerns

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MnSCU's technology spending raises fresh tuition concerns
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL (AP) -- The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will more than doubled its spending on technology this year, drawing objections from some who would rather see the money used to hold down tuition.


Software upgrades, backup systems, security improvements and other technology will eat up 40 percent of the $152 million in new money approved by the Legislature through 2009. Officials say the upgrades are overdue as enrollment rises and computer demands increase at the 32 state universities and two-year colleges.

"Our system was crumbling," said Jim Dillemuth, who oversees MnSCU's technology needs. "We had to fix the infrastructure, or it was going to continue to deteriorate."

MnSCU's spending on technology jumped from barely $20 million the past few years to $46 million this year and is projected to climb to $50 million in 2009.

Some students would rather live with older computer systems to keep their tuition down, said Kara Brockett, who heads the Minnesota State University Student Association.

"We're willing to sacrifice some of these fancier initiatives to save us some money," said Brockett, a senior at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.

The technology expenditures have prompted the union for 3,300 state university faculty to consider requesting an independent review and asking lawmakers to limit the amount MnSCU can spend on computer upgrades.

"MnSCU is simply throwing money at technology," said Russ Stanton, government relations director for the Inter Faculty Organization.

Some professors are also concerned that MnSCU is preparing to start a "virtual university," Stanton said.

Officials said an online university has been mentioned in their discussions but isn't connected to the boost in technology spending. MnSCU campuses had 180,848 students this fall, while the number taking online courses jumped 29 percent to 33,082.

Support for the technology upgrades came from all MnSCU college and university presidents, according to Anne Temte, president of Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls.

"I don't believe that any of us viewed the allocation for technology as one that prevented us from addressing other priorities," said Temte, a member of a panel that recommended the spending.

Pioneer staff reports