UMN sees out-of-state student enrollment decline

This year’s freshman class saw a 26 percent decrease in out-of-state enrollment.

Austen Macalus

The number of non-resident, non-reciprocity freshmen at the University of Minnesota dropped dramatically this semester — hitting the lowest point in five years — after the University raised tuition for out-of-state students last year. The University is considering more tuition hikes for non-resident students next year. 

This year’s freshmen class includes 726 non-resident, non-reciprocity students — a 26 percent drop from last year. This is 12 percent lower than the five-year average.  

Last year, the Board of Regents approved a 15 percent tuition increase for new non-reciprocity undergraduates —  students outside Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. The increase was limited to 5.5 percent for students who were already at the University. 

“That’s a big, big bump,”  said Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education. “For non-resident students who are price sensitive, [the increase] probably created difficulties in them coming to the [University].”

This year, non-resident, non-reciprocity students made up around 12 percent of the incoming class. The University wants to bring that number up to around 15 percent next year, McMaster said. 

The recent decline re-affirms concerns expressed by many out-of-state students. 

Isaiah Ogren is a University sophomore from Texas. He said tuition was a big factor in his decision to attend the University. 

“When it came time to [choose] a college, I thought the [University] was a really good value,” Ogren said. “It ended up being the strongest choice for me, mostly because it was affordable.”

Ogren, whose tuition went up 5.5 percent this year, said increases targeted toward out-of-state students do little to help the University. 

“Out-of-state students are not a blank check where we should go whenever we have a budget shortfalling,”he said. 

The University currently has the third lowest non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition in the Big Ten, at $30,400 for tuition and fees. 

The University is considering raising tuition next year by another 10 percent for new non-resident, non-reciprocity students and 5.5 percent for current students  —  a plan several regents expressed support for at the board’s meeting Thursday.  

Regent Chair David McMillan said he is “cautiously supportive” of another tuition hike. 

“We need to think … really hard about how much further to go,” McMillan said. “We’re getting really close to a point where we do more harm than good.” 

A 10 percent hike would move the University to the middle of the Big Ten when it comes to non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition. 

Regent Darrin Rosha said he would like to see an even larger tuition increase because Minnesota students should be the University’s top concern. 

“The bottom line is, I don’t think we should be investing so much in trying to replace Minnesota students … [preventing] them from having access to their land-grant University,” Rosha said. “I think we should be focusing more on these huge swaths of Minnesota students.”

Around 65 percent of this year’s freshmen are from Minnesota — putting the University in the middle of the Big Ten for in-state enrollment. The University of Iowa has one of the lowest percentages: 54 percent of this year’s freshmen are in-state students. At Michigan State, which has one of the highest rates, 75 percent of freshmen came from Michigan this year.  

Others were more hesitant to support the increase, including Regent Peggy Lucas, who said would be one of the largest hikes in the Big Ten. 

“I think it’s more important to think about the geographic realities of our school and the need from the business community to attract talent,” she said.  

McMaster said the University is trying to attract non-resident, non-reciprocity students with increased recruiting efforts and offering discounts for some students. 

“I know from talking with students, they value the fact that we have students from around the country [and around the world] that are in classrooms with them,” he said at the board meeting. 

Even with tuition hikes, McMaster said the University remains an affordable option for students, especially considering the quality of education. 

“The reputation of this University and the [non-reciprocity] tuition, we’re still a very good deal,” McMaster said. 

But for many out-of-state students, Ogren said, the University is sending the wrong message. 

“I made a choice to move across the country to come here,” he said. “It doesn’t feel good as a kid from Texas — who came here because this place matters to me —  to then feel like I’m a resource to have … dollars squeezed out of me.”