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Rehabilitation & Renovation Funds: When 'R&R' Is Neither Restful Nor Relaxing

Background

During the 2011 legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly zeroed out a fund used to keep up facilities on state university campuses, known as rehabilitation and renovation, or “R&R funding.” That cut eventually meant an increase in Indiana students’ college bills.

How?

This spring, both Indiana University and Purdue University administrators were in a pinch: state lawmakers had cut their funding once again, but the state’s Commission for Higher Education recommended a 3.5 percent cap on tuition increases at the Bloomington and West Lafayette campuses, respectively.

So, to keep the tuition increase below the minimum, the universities raised fees instead, saying they needed to replace the R&R funding that had been cut.

When IU’s trustees announced their tuition rates for the 2011-12 and ’12-13 school years, they did not raise tuition above the 3.5 percent cap. They did tack on a mandatory R&R fee ($180 in ’11-12, $360 in ’12-13), sending the total student bill up more than 5 percent. Purdue’s administrators similarly raised tuition by 3.5 percent, but added a $91 fee for the building of a new student center.

In Bloomington, the fees are expected to raise between $6-7 million for the flagship campus of IU, and about $13 million total at all of IU’s campuses.

The R&R fees have become central to the back-and-forth between the Commission for Higher Education, the legislature, and the state’s public universities. If the Commission views the fees as the universities trying to make an end-run around its tuition recommendations, there could be blowback from state lawmakers, who hold the universities’ purse strings.

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