MSA resolution aims to keep tuition stable

by Tracy Ellingson

Freezing tuition at its current level might prove to be as difficult as stopping a runaway train, but members of the Minnesota Student Association still want to try.
The MSA Forum passed a resolution Tuesday that will give the undergraduate student body an opportunity to vote in support of a tuition freeze during the April 23-24 all-campus elections. Students who vote in favor of a freeze on their ballots will be counted, and the total will be sent to the Board of Regents.
The regents are not required to consider the results of the resolution, which was drafted by members of the Progressive Student Organization and has received support from several other campus organizations.
“It’s good that (MSA) endorsed this,” said J Burger, author of the resolution and a member of the PSO. “The majority prevailed, and MSA joined a team of people who want to bring up a debate around tuition and the direction of this University.”
Even though several conservative Forum members have shown strong support for tuition and student services fees decreases this year and in the past, some of them voted against PSO’s resolution.
“It’s pretty vague,” said Eric Watkins, MSA senator and member of Students Against Fee Excess. Watkins said the only reason he was speaking against the resolution was because he wasn’t sure some of the wording and statistics were correct.
“What we’re talking about is endorsing an idea,” said MSA representative Bill Gilles, who is also a member of the fee excess group. He added that when voting about a resolution, “facts and wording are very, very important. We have to take those seriously; we have to look at them all … and some of the statements in here are inaccurate.”
The resolution calls for the regents to keep tuition rates for undergraduate students at their current level.
It also states that “current tuition rates deny access to the University for most Minnesotans.” A few Forum members said they are concerned that this statement is incorrect and the PSO could not back it up with statistics.
PSO included a claim that tuition has increased at an average of 58.7 percent per year more than the rate of inflation, a number the group determined after reviewing records from the Office of Planning and Analysis. However, Tom Gilson, a senior analyst in the office, said in an interview that the average would probably be closer to 32 percent.
“Our group hasn’t compared our statistics to theirs to see what the methodology was,” Burger said.
PSO member and resolution co-author Rebecca Pera said the exact number isn’t important. “The point is, as (tuition) rises, it denies access to students at the University,” she said.
MSA President Helen Phin said she was surprised by the hesitation to pass the resolution.
“How many times have we passed a resolution saying ‘we want low tuition’?” Phin asked the group. “I think it’s time to put our weight behind another group that is working on this issue and support them in their endeavors.”