Tuition to rise for grad students

Tuition will also increase for out-of-state University students.

President Eric Kaler answers questions and addresses concerns about his proposed 2013-2014 budget Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at McNamara Alumni Center.

President Eric Kaler answers questions and addresses concerns about his proposed 2013-2014 budget Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at McNamara Alumni Center.

by Janice Bitters

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents will vote Friday to approve a plan that would freeze undergraduate resident tuition but also raise the cost of school for non-residents and graduate students.

Last week, University President Eric Kaler presented his proposed 2013-14 budget that also raises some fees, like room and board, for all students.

Kaler’s budget would also freeze the collegiate fee, which funds some technology and general expenses, and increase state and federal aid to some students next year.

The proposed budget includes about $10 million in administrative spending cuts in response to a legislative request for the University to cut costs by $15 million next year.

Kaler said he’s confident the University will find the remaining $5 million in cuts over the next year to meet the Legislature’s request, adding “operational excellence” is his top priority.

While many were pleased with Kaler’s short-term goals, some voiced concerns about long-term funding for the University.

Despite freeze, fees increase

The tuition freeze satisfies a promise Kaler made to the Legislature last session in exchange for higher state investment in the University.

The Legislature granted most of the University’s funding requests in the higher education omnibus bill, which passed last month. Kaler said the high appropriations by the state this year follow a six-year decrease in funding for the University.

The Legislature voted to increase funding to the state grant program, which Kaler said is another way students will benefit in the coming years.

 “I have always felt that if you want to know an institution’s priorities, you should look at its budget,” Kaler said. “And I feel that this budget highlights our priorities towards excellence and access.”

During his presentation last week to the regents, Kaler heard mostly praise, though many had specific concerns.

Regent John Frobenius voiced concerns about long-term funding and tuition costs for students after the two-year resident tuition freeze.

“Every time you say that word ‘freeze,’ … there is a cliff to climb at the end of the freeze,” he said. “I do think we need to spend a little time understanding what happens three years from now.”

Outgoing Minnesota Student Association President Taylor Williams echoed those concerns and asked the board to focus on reducing costs at the University.

“This budget makes some moves in the right direction,” he said. “But we must remember that it only makes a small impact in the context of a decade-plus-long trend of cost increases that have fallen squarely on students.”

In Kaler’s budget, in-state tuition at the Twin Cities campus will remain at $12,060 next year, while non-resident students will see a $1,000 jump in tuition, bringing their cost to more than $18,000 per year.

Room and board would increase by more than $300, student services fees would increase by about $95 and specific class fees will rise.

Most of the student services fees increase is driven by the new recreational center building and funding for more mental health resources on campus, said Richard Pfutzenreuter, University vice president and chief financial officer.

Tuition increases for some

Graduate and professional student tuition will rise by 3 percent for most programs in the coming year, according to the proposed budget, but others will rise by up to 9 percent. 

Graduate student Aaron Beek said his peers “are suffering from serious pressures” financially because of rising costs.

“We are asking the Board of Regents to recognize the need for a stronger financial commitment to graduate education on top of organizational change,” he said.

Kaler said though the University had increased state funding this year from past legislative sessions, not all requested appropriations were granted, so some students might not be included in the tuition freeze.

“There’s a lot of interest in supporting access to undergraduate education,” he said. “Frankly, there’s less political enthusiasm around the cost of graduate education.”

Among the graduate program increases, first-year resident law students will see the largest jump of about 9 percent, bringing in-state tuition up to more than $38,000. Second-and third-year law students will see smaller increases. Tuition for first-year Executive MBA students will also rise 8.4 percent, bringing the cost to more than $52,000.

“Our law school has strategically decided to move its tuition up to the median of its peer group,” Kaler said, “and to allow access to students from low- or moderate-income families by providing additional financial aid.”

Carl Spindler, a recent graduate of the law school, said he’s seen firsthand how the increase will impact law students down the line when paying off debts and looking for jobs.

“I think the biggest concern is that it doesn’t really impact the students now.”