Regents may tinker with tuition, fees

by Joel Sawyer

The Board of Regents on Thursday empowered University administrators to draft a policy that would change tuition rates and make assessing extraneous course fees more difficult.
The University currently charges different rates of tuition for lower and upper-division students. The proposed changes would create a single rate for undergraduates by 1998-99.
“It’s my belief students would be better off if we made this change,” said Peter Zetterberg, director of the University’s office of planning and analysis.
Administrators told the board’s Faculty Staff and Student Affairs Committee that there was no good rationale for the variation in tuition rates and said evidence suggests that the tuition rate imbalance hurts student retention rates by forcing upper-division students to pay more when they have less money for tuition. Underclassman are less sensitive to higher tuition than upperclassman, Zetterberg said. Financial support from parents is strongest at the beginning of students’ careers, he added, which makes undergraduates’ ability to pay for schooling easier.
Zetterberg also said scholarship and grant money is more accessible to underclassman, thus easing their financial burden. The only financial aid most upperclassman receive comes in the form of student loans.
Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, told the regents that the rates could be equalized in a couple of different ways. He said rates could either be averaged or lower-division course tuition could be increased to match upper-division course tuition.
“This two-step tuition policy is really counterproductive to both our goals and our students’ lifestyles,” he said.
The tuition equalization may accompany a 2.5 percent increase that the University has recommended in its yet-to-be-approved 1998-99 biennial budget request.
Crookston Chancellor Donald Sargeant agreed with the tuition change but said it should be coupled with changes in financial aid policy that would help all students defray the cost of tuition.
Regents also agreed to allow administrators to prepare a more strict college and course fee policy. Currently, fees can be imposed to cover the costs of special equipment or supplies used in a course, program or college, but cannot be used for general budget support.
The new proposal would only allow each college or campus to impose one such fee, rather than the several that are currently allowed.
“This is an attempt to restrict (the proliferation) of fees,” Zetterberg said.
Both proposals received criticism from Regent Student Representative James Reed who said it was premature to make changes to fee and tuition policy.
“Any revisions should be tabled until we address the larger issue of long-term planning,” he said.
Reed said the future cost of improving students’ access to new technologies at the University, and any cap on student fees will inevitably force tuition to increase.
Reed said the University should engage in longer-term planning to determine what the institution will need in terms of technological investments — how much those investments will cost, and how they will be paid for before making any changes to tuition and fees.
The policy drafted by administrators will be reviewed and discussed by the regents at their February meeting.