Bill aims to curb Wis. students’ tuition edge

Amy Horst

Under the current reciprocity program, Wisconsin-native undergraduate students pay 28 percent less than their Minnesotan counterparts while attending the University.

A group of state legislators is working to correct that imbalance.

Rep. Joseph Opatz, DFL-St. Cloud, and other legislators introduced a bill in the House on Feb. 5 that would periodically review and reauthorize the state’s reciprocity program, which offers substantial tuition discounts to students from Wisconsin.

Currently, Twin Cities students pay $1,174 more per year than Wisconsin students. At the Duluth campus, Minnesota students pay 50 percent more in tuition than Wisconsin students who attend the Duluth campus.

While the bill would not immediately affect the 6,100 students from Wisconsin who currently attend the Twin Cities campus, it could pave the way for equal tuition for students from both states. When the Legislature reviews the reciprocity program, it will be allowed to change aspects of the program.

“This has been a long-standing issue for me regarding the fairness of agreements that exist between Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Opatz said.

Wisconsin students pay less because reciprocity regulations require students to pay the same amount they would at an equivalent institution in their home state, said Christine Maziar, University executive vice president and provost. For students at the Twin Cities campus, the equivalent university is the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

However, Wisconsin students at the Twin Cities campus pay more than other Wisconsin students in Minnesota because of a 25 percent surcharge added to their tuition. University officials from both states added the surcharge in 1998 to decrease the tuition discrepancy.

Peter Zetterberg, director of the Office of Institutional Research and Reporting, said the University is not certain the proposal is necessary.

“Our general posture is to not want to change anything,” Zetterberg said at a meeting of the House Higher Education Finance Committee on Monday.

Rep. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, said if the proposal passes it could make it easier for legislators to dissolve the reciprocity program.

“I don’t like the concept of reauthorization because I think it’s overkill for the goals that are being sought,” he said. “My fear is that one person in the Legislature who wants to kill the reciprocity program would have an easier time.”