PSO rallies for tuition freeze

by Jennifer Niemela

The Progressive Student Organization staged a rally Friday in front of Morrill Hall to protest rising tuition rates at the University.
The rally, which attracted about 15 people, was intended to protest University President Nils Hasselmo’s U2000 plan, which is designed to keep the University competitive with comparable top-30 research institutions. PSO says the corporate-minded agenda of U2000 will ultimately deny lower-class and minority students access to the University.
Students “are supposed to be the focus of this University,” said PSO member Rebecca Pera. “Take a look at who you’re targeting. You’re not targeting General College, you’re not targeting the working class. (U2000) is turning this university into an (aristocratic) institution.”
The PSO was calling for the Board of Regents to enact a tuition freeze and examine decreasing it in the near future. During the recent MSA election, a PSO-sponsored resolution calling on the Board of Regents to freeze and consider lowering tuition passed with 1,576 yes votes to 118 no votes.
The board was in Duluth for its monthly regents’ meeting Friday.
Minnesota Student Association president-elect Jigar Madia attended the rally but did not make a speech as was expected. He said PSO should look at the issues in their totality.
“I admire the passion with which the PSO goes about pursuing their fight for students,” Madia said. “But there are concerns which the PSO doesn’t address. Tuition is complex; there are all sorts of groups that influence tuition: the Legislature, the administration, the students.”
Physics professor Erwin Marquit said U2000 is pushing more students into community colleges by raising tuition to levels unattainable by the lower-class.
“The U has a more special role than any other college in the metro area,” he said. “It combines research and education. Students need to have access to that higher quality.”
PSO claims that because of the increased costs, most students can’t make it through college without getting at least a 20-hour per week job, which affects their study time and therefore the quality of their education.
According to the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, in 1993-94 when U2000 was first initiated, undergraduate tuition was $3,459. In the 1995-96 school year, undergraduate rates were $4,153.
Graduate Student Organizing Congress member Catherine Orr, who received her undergraduate degree from California State–Fullerton in the mid 1980s, said tuition levels here are unacceptably high.
“I used to pay $400 a semester (in California),” she said. “I don’t know how students do it here.”
The national average tuition for research institutions was $3,210 in 1995-96. Minnesota is the 12th most expensive public University in the nation. The University of Vermont is first at $6,801.
Orr said the University should look at cutting back its administrative costs instead.
“They should look at the amount of money spent on those CEO-type salaries for the administration,” she said.