Editorial: Out-of-state tuition hike proposal should be approached with caution

Daily Editorial Board

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler’s proposal for consecutive 15 percent tuition increases for nonresidents would spell an almost $4,000 increase for nonresident, non-reciprocity (NRNR) students in the 2018-19 term and even more the following year. Although this steep change may happen over just two years, the Board of Regents cut NRNR tuition by about 30 percent in 2007, hoping to attract more out-of-state academic talent. 

In 2017, University of Minnesota NRNR tuition still remains one of the lowest in the Big Ten Conference, while tuition for Minnesota residents is much higher than comparable Big Ten schools such as University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ohio State and the University of Iowa. Supporters for the tuition increase aim to balance the quality of a University education and the price tag. It is fair to compare the University of Minnesota to like universities in the Big Ten. The tuition difference between the University and other Big Ten institutions may indicate that a change needs to be made. 

The increase would generate an extra $10 million next year alone. This is one of the benefits coming with Kaler’s proposal, which argues that we would spend some of the additional revenue on out-of-state recruiters to keep University diversity and tuition discounts for students. However, the need to increase tuition should not alienate any students who want to attend the University, yet are deterred by the price tag. This must be balanced properly. 

The proposed tuition hike also poses a fundamental question in higher education. The debate concerns whether public and state universities primarily exist to serve the country or the students that live in the region. The proposal suggests to out-of-state students that in-state students are the main priority. We believe that though this may be fair philosophically, it greatly harms the ability of the University to improve national rankings as it fails to draw talent from throughout the country.

Furthermore, the proposal from Kaler is very steep. The end tuition would total about $35,000 in just two years. Such a decision could shock the system, leading to undesirable changes. It has been argued that the administration overestimates the brand of the University — that it is not as well known as they would like to think. The Regents should be careful of the decision to increase tuition. It is a challenging decision regardless and a tough thing to balance. Kaler has expressed interest in having the Board of Regents vote early so that it gives recruiters and students a chance to react before the increase happens. The Board should try to do this as they should not rush a decision that affects a large fraction of University students.

Unfortunately, tuition increases are often a necessary evil. A variety of factors, such as inflation and building renovations, can spike the cost of attending the University. However, it’s imperative that the Board of Regents investigate the full need to raise the cost of attending the University. Often, it is not simply about increasing or decreasing costs — we need to holistically examine whether the University’s expenditures are being made for the right priorities. While a tuition increase may still prove necessary, it will grant students the necessary assurance that they are getting the value they are paying for.