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A closer look at the programs excluded from the 2020-21 tuition freeze

The programs include the Medical School, School of Dentistry and three graduate degrees in the College of Science and Engineering.
Image by Luis Mendoza

The Medical School, the School of Dentistry and several graduate degrees in the College of Science and Engineering have special circumstances that exclude them from the tuition freeze for the 2020-21 academic year.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Joan Gabel froze tuition for students at the University of Minnesota for the 2020-21 academic year.

Under this decision, approved by the Board of Regents in April, all students will pay the same tuition rates as the 2019-20 academic year. However, this announcement excluded three programs within the University, including the Medical School, the School of Dentistry and several graduate degrees in the College of Science and Engineering.

College of Science and Engineering

The Technological Leadership Institute within CSE offers specialized degrees for graduate and professional students focusing on technology and business. Due to the unique nature of these degrees, they were not included in the tuition freeze.

Within this program, each incoming class of students enters into cohorts, where they pay a fixed tuition rate for the entirety of their time in the program.

“The important thing to note is the tuition is fixed for the cohort. For example, the group that starts this year will graduate at the end the spring of 2022 and their tuition will be the same,” said Douglas Ernie, interim director of TLI.

The programs included in the institute include the areas of medical device innovation, management of technology and security technologies.

Additionally, this program does not receive outside financial contributions and is completely funded by student tuition.

“We are a financially self-supporting unit … we don’t get any budget lines from the state in that sense for staffing or any faculty or anything,” Ernie said. “Based on that, and based on analysis of similar programs across the country and based on program demand, that’s how we set our tuition rate.”

The increase in tuition for next year ranges from between $800 and $3,600 total, Ernie said.

School of Dentistry

The University’s School of Dentistry students will also not receive a tuition freeze for the 2020-21 academic year, although exceptions are being made for the cohort of students entering their final year in the Doctor of Dental Surgery and Dental Therapy programs.

“Class of 2021 students in these programs have endured unique challenges this past semester and will experience more during their graduating year. Freezing tuition for these cohorts takes these challenges into account,” read an emailed statement from the School of Dentistry to the Minnesota Daily.

The tuition for other students in these programs will be increased by 2% to account for educational and administrative costs of the program and a decrease in clinical visits.

“This [2%] increase is in alignment with the market need for dentists, comparable or slightly below increases being proposed at Big Ten peer institutions. The School continues to make available to students internal scholarships to assist with tuition and other costs,” the statement reads.

The Medical School

The University’s Medical School is the final program not included in the academic tuition freeze. 

The school operates under a “cost of degree” model, where tuition is held flat for four years with each incoming class.

“We have held tuition flat for four years in order to align with the mid-range tuition of our peers and that is where we remain,” read an emailed statement from the University of Minnesota Medical School to the Minnesota Daily.

This program also experiences unique educational costs associated with COVID-19 and the demand of the degrees offered.

“In order to protect our students and patients, we have a significant need for more safety equipment, simulation, smaller classes, additional health and well-being programming, and student services required for accreditation,” the statement read.

Student response

Students within the College of Science and Engineering generally did not respond negatively to the tuition freeze due to their unique circumstances as students, Ernie said.

Many of these students are also working full time and receive tuition reimbursement. Additionally, the program is transparent about the continuity of their program cost, he said.

“We advertise our rates when we are starting our recruiting cycle in fall the year before,” Ernie said. “So they’re not getting an increase every year — the rate that they come in at is the rate until they finish.”

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