Regents approve human research protection, discuss tuition increase

by Christopher Aadland

After initiating changes in March, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents  approved steps the school plans to take in order to better protect research participants.
On Friday, regents approved dozens of steps the University will take to bolster its human research protections after it was blasted in two reports released earlier this year. The new safeguards will cost the University nearly $10 million the first year and almost $4.5 million each year after that. 
Among the new policies are requirements to strengthen the University’s Institutional Review Board, the creation of a community oversight board and preventing researchers from collecting fees from companies that sponsor their research.
Still, President Eric Kaler said more changes to the school’s human research protection program could be coming.
“This is a dynamic process,” Kaler told reporters at a Board of Regents committee meeting Thursday. “We will continually get better and improve.”
The reports were the culmination of more than a decade of scrutiny brought on after the 2004 suicide of research participant Dan Markingson. 
While Mike Howard, a family friend of Markingson’s mother, said the University seems sincere in its intentions, he said he is frustrated it took so long to address concerns with the school’s research practices.
“Dan didn’t need to die for this to happen,” he said at the meeting. “This should’ve happened on its own years ago.”
Higher tuition looms
While tuition at the University of Minnesota is slated to jump next year, the Board of Regents is unsure exactly who to burden with the increase.
Under Kaler’s proposed budget, tuition would jump by 1.5 percent for resident undergraduates and 7 percent for out-of-state undergraduates. In-state graduate and professional students would see an average increase of 2.5 percent. 
But at a board meeting Friday, regents disagreed about the impact of bumping up tuition for nonresidents by 7 percent. Potentially increasing out-of-state undergraduate rates by 10 percent was also discussed.
Kaler said the money from the extra 3 percent jump would be applied to further lower costs for in-state undergraduates.
If approved, Kaler said his plan will increase financial aid to offset tuition increases for about 40 percent of in-state undergraduates.
Regent Michael Hsu said he’d like to see nonresidents pay more, which would help drive down costs for Minnesota residents.
“It looks like a great deal for out-of-state-students, and it should be the other way around,” he said at last week’s board meeting.
As the University tries to entice elite students from other states, Kaler said raising tuition on nonresident students too fast could harm its retention rates and recruiting efforts.
“My family loved the price,” said Callie Livengood, an out-of-state student and vice chair of the Student Representatives to the Board of Regents at a public forum Friday. “Our low out-of-state tuition is the reason I’m here today.”
Nonetheless, Regent Darrin Rosha said he still would like to see the tuition freeze extended for in-state residents.
To do that, University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said it would take $6.1 million of reallocation to extend a freeze.
Throughout this year’s legislative session, Kaler said tuition would spike unless legislators gave the University the $65 million it said was needed to freeze tuition.
Lawmakers ended up allocating about $22 million to the school to freeze costs.
Regents will vote on a final budget and tuition rates on June 24.