UMN Regents Fight Against Tuition Hikes

University, Minnesota,
University of Minnesota entrance. Image by Wikimedia Commons user AlexiusHoratius. []

MINNEAPOLIS – University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s proposed tuition increase of three percent fell on unsympathetic ears at a meeting of the UMN’s Board of Regents on Thursday.

The proposed increase would raise tuition by $376 a semester, bringing the total to $12,922 for the Fall 2017 semester. The Star Tribune reports Kaler claims this is a necessary step to make up for the state legislature not fulfilling every dollar of the UMN’s wishlist during the session.

The legislature rejected UMN’s request for an additional $147 million in funding, instead granting the university $54.6 million in new funding, reports the Star Tribune.

“I’m just very concerned about doing everything we can to control tuition increases,” said Regent Ken Powell, reports the Star Tribune. “I’m very uneasy about tuition increases that would be more than the rate of inflation in the community.”

Kaler has also proposed a 10 percent increase in tuition for out of state students, a proposal which has garnered much more support among the regents, reports the Pioneer Press. Non-resident tuition for UMN ranks among the lowest in the Big 10.

According to the Pioneer Press, even with increases in nonresident tuition in recent years, enrollment of nonresident students has actually increased.

Former Republican Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum, now a regent, was more concerned with cutting costs at the university then he was about raising funds by increasing tuition, reports the Star Tribune. He noted at the meeting that salaries of university employees are much higher than those of state government officials.

“The pedestal we put ourselves on in higher education, it’s a little wrong,” he said, reports the Star Tribune. Sviggum recommended reducing staff at the university by one percent which he believes can be accomplished by attrition.

“The culture and flavor of the board has shifted,” Chairman Dean Johnson told the Star Tribune. Johnson noted that new members have emphasized a desire for cost saving measures over increased rates to fund more spending. He suspects compromise will be necessary for the board to move forward.

Anders Koskinen