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East Lansing — Michigan State University didn’t surpass a tuition cap set by the Legislature, unlike another school did this week.

Instead, trustees for the state’s largest public university on Wednesday agreed to increase tuition by 2.7 percent for 2015-16, below the state’s 3.2 percent cap.

The increase means in-state undergraduate students will pay $13,580 next year for tuition, up from $13,246 this year. In April, the trustees raised room-and-board rates 3.5 percent, to $9,474.

“It’s always difficult, the budgeting process especially raising tuition,” said Trustee Melanie Foster, chairwoman of the trustee finance committee. “But the balancing act is wanting to maintain a world-class faculty and a great value at Michigan State University.”

After the meeting, MSU President Lou Anna Simon said the university did not consider exceeding the tuition cap. That means the university will get at least $3.8 million in incentive funding, in addition to a $268.2 million appropriation, according to figures from the House Fiscal Agency.

“We didn’t worry about the cap,” Simon said. “In our planning, we worried about the right place to be in the marketplace and accessibility, and trying to reduce our costs. It happens to fall under the cap. We try every year to be the most responsible in terms of the numbers.”

Though a few other universities have set tuition already, the state’s Big Three public universities are now deciding the issue. The University of Michigan decides on Thursday and Wayne State University will reveal its decision a week from Friday.

The state’s 15 public universities get a state appropriation each year. But for the past four years, lawmakers have built in a relatively small sum of money known as incentive funding. Universities get that money in addition to the regular appropriation if they set tuition at or below a cap.

Wayne State University had been the only school to exceed the cap when in 2013 it increased tuition by 8.9 percent.

Eastern Michigan University became the second on Tuesday when it hiked tuition by 7.8 percent — bypassing $1 million in state incentive funding and instead bringing in $10 million more from students. University officials said the move was necessary to support academics and other programs.

MSU could exceed $3.8 million in incentive funding if other universities exceed the cap, said school spokesman Jason Cody. Any incentive funding bypassed by universities besides EMU will be split among those that come in under the cap, he said.

Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday defended the tuition cap after signing the state budget bill that funds universities.

“I think our system has been working with only a couple of universities in two separate years deciding that they didn’t like that answer,” Snyder said.

Mike Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan, predicted earlier this week that no university would exceed the cap. But after EMU’s move, he said other universities had talked about exceeding the cap.

The lone dissenter against MSU’s tuition increase was Trustee Diann Woodard, who routinely votes against tuition increases.

“The state has disinvested in higher ed,” Woodward said, “and education is our future.”

In other business, the trustees approved an ordinance that will make the campus tobacco-free on Aug. 15, 2016.

kkozlowski@detroitnews.com

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