Tuition hikes around country double current inflation rate

Sean Madigan

The average annual in-state tuition rate rose 4 percent nationally this year, more than twice the rate of inflation, according to a survey released by the College Board.
To calculate last year’s inflation rate, the College Board used the Consumer Price Index, which rose 1.6 percent for the 12 months ending in August.
University undergraduates pay $1,025 more than the national average in tuition and fees for four-year public universities, according to the survey released late last week. The average tuition for all undergraduate freshmen at the University is $4,458 and is slated to rise by an average of 3 percent to $4,577 for next year, said Tom Gilson, a senior analyst for the Office of Planning and Analysis.
Last year, undergraduate students paid an average of $4,268 for tuition and fees; that amount increased by an average of 3 percent this year.
“The average is 3 percent, but the actual dollar amount might be more for some students and less for others, depending on the tuition structure,” said Richard Pfutzenreuter, vice president of the Office of Budget and Finance. Upper division and lower division students pay different amounts. Tuition costs also depend on the number of credits a student takes.
Minnesota’s average tuition and fees rank sixth among the 11 schools in the Big Ten. Northwestern is the most expensive, charging students more than $22,392 in tuition and fees annually.
Despite this year’s increase falling one percentage point short of the national average, Minnesota Student Association president Nikki Kubista said she is not pleased with the tuition rate.
“Each year, the students ask to keep the tuition low, and each year the University raises it a little, not necessarily outrageously, but just enough that students are less likely to mobilize around the change,” Kubista said.
The association is currently lobbying the Board of Regents to hold the annual tuition increase to no more than 2 percent. Each year that tuition increases, the University becomes less accessible to students in need, Kubista said.
“This is a trend, that we slowly increase tuition, but what are we getting?” asked Kubista. Many of the things students are getting are things they should have already had, Kubista said.
Pfutzenreuter said the tuition and fees increase should not be compared to the inflation rate but rather to what goods and services the University provides to students. When the amount of goods and services expands, more dollars are needed for funding, he said.
Of the University’s $1.28 billion dollar budget request, 94 percent of what University President Mark Yudof calls “the basket of goods” is being funded by the state. Only 6 percent of the funding for goods and services comes from tuition dollars, Pfutzenreuter said.
In years that tuition has increased, the state and federal governments have supplemented the increases by adding additional funding, Pfutzenreuter said.