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With funding uncertain, Minnesota State sets out to build $150M records system for colleges, universities

ST. PAUL — Minnesota State is embarking on a six-year, $150 million overhaul of its computerized records system and hoping the Legislature will cover much of the cost.

Trustees for the higher-education system agreed Wednesday, Nov. 15, to hire a consultant for the project, which is in its third year of planning.

The new system for Minnesota State's 37 public colleges and universities will hold records for students, accounting and human resources at an estimated annual software cost of $9 million, chief financial officer Laura King said. About $16 million a year through 2024 will be spent on contract help, internal staff and equipment, she said.

Calling it more than a technology solution, interim chancellor Devinder Malhotra said the new records system will be critical to Minnesota State's efforts to improve student outcomes.

He said it will create a technology environment in which "the likelihood of student success increases dramatically."

Last legislative session, Minnesota State proposed an even cost-share for the project between the state and higher-education system. But lawmakers awarded just $8 million over two years instead of the requested $25 million.

Minnesota State will ask for the rest of the money next year, when the Legislature is expected to consider requests to supplement the approved two-year budget.

Without further state support, the project costs will fall to the colleges and universities, which have been hurt by declining enrollment and state-imposed tuition caps.

The system also will ask lawmakers for an additional $10 million in general funding for its campuses.

Jay Cowles, treasurer for the board of trustees, said lawmakers may not be in the mood to support supplemental budget requests next year but Minnesota State's bid sends an important message about its priorities.

Trustees on Wednesday also reviewed the system's capital requests for the state's 2018 bonding bill. Like the University of Minnesota's list, it emphasizes maintenance and repairs over new construction.

Minnesota State has 22.7 million square feet of academic space, an increase of 7 percent since 2006. Enrollment is down 2 percent over that same time.

Brian Yolitz, associate vice chancellor for facilities, said the current capital plan would reduce academic space statewide by 70,000 square feet.