Speak out against higher tuition rates

Increasing nonresident tuition will not solve problems related to the U’s current pricing model.

by Keelia Moeller

Compared to other Big Ten universities, the University of Minnesota’s out-of-state tuition rates fall at the bottom of the price range. In an effort to make tuition prices more competitive, the University’s Board of Regents recently endorsed a proposal to raise out-of-state costs to the Big Ten’s midpoint by 2020.
I worry this increase is just the beginning of the University’s plan to create more “competitive” prices. Within four years, nonresident tuition could increase significantly, topping off at $35,000 by 2020. 
By contrast, in 2008, the University actually lowered its nonresident tuition to $13,600. Since then, cost for out-of-state students has risen to $22,260, according to Pioneer Press. 
The University has attracted more international and out-of-state students since the tuition cut in 2008. But critics say Minnesota shouldn’t give its nonresident students such a low rate on tuition.
I disagree. Lower rates can attract people who want a quality education but cannot afford to go to overpriced schools like Northwestern University or Michigan State University, both of which fall near the top of the nonresident tuition spectrum for Big Ten schools.
Furthermore, the steady flow of international and nonresident students onto our campus adds to the University’s geographical diversity. This is something we should value for its effect on our campus’ climate — seeing people of different backgrounds at this school makes everyone feel like they belong to a vibrant community. University President Eric Kaler himself has expressed this sentiment. 
While a tuition increase would not affect nonresident students currently attending the University, there was nevertheless uproar in the community when news broke of the Board’s endorsement. Activists created pledges, events and petitions to protest the massive tuition inflation, but they could not overturn the decision.
Back in October, a Channel Five news reporter asked me how I felt about leveling campus buildings in order to lower tuition. I told them I would not object. 
The network ended up quoting me in a story about how the University is downsizing its campus and making buildings more cost-effective in an attempt to reduce its costs by nearly $93 million. The purpose of this downsizing was also to lower tuition rates.
After seeing the full story on TV, I hoped the University would pursue creative strategies to keep costs down, making attendance an attainable goal for prospective applicants. Yet, in light of new tuition increases, I’m sad to see that such a goal might be harder than ever to achieve.
If the University wants to become more cost-competitive, it should create tuition rates that other universities simply cannot beat. Removing buildings that lose money is a good start to better the lives of students and get back lost dollars. 
Heightening nonresident tuition rates, in contrast, is only going to turn away the diverse student body the school has worked so hard to attract in the past.
Keelia Moeller welcomes comments at [email protected].