Several reports released last week showed that college tuition costs are increasing at a slower rate than normal and that student borrowing rates are decreasing concurrently. However, Minnesota students may not feel those trends. The Institute for College Access and Success found that the state has the fifth-highest level of student loan debt in the United States.
The typical undergraduate in Minnesota who completes their degree finishes with $30,894 of student loan debt, which is more than $2,000 above the national average. Debt levels have also increased for graduate students, who owe 40 percent of the $1.2 trillion in national student debt, despite making up only 14 percent of college students.
The national student debt burden imposes large economic and societal costs on U.S. graduates with large amounts of student debt. They are less able to purchase houses and cars, start businesses, get married and have children than those without debt.
The University of Minnesota’s 2016-17 biennial budget request proposed a tuition freeze that would prevent tuition increases of 3 percent for undergraduates and 3.5 percent for graduate students. The proposal would extend the current freeze enacted in 2012.
We urge the Minnesota Legislature to approve the tuition freeze request this spring, but University leaders must understand this is only a temporary fix to a long-term problem that needs more than a Band-Aid. Transferring the costs of flat tuition rates to the state isn’t sustainable, so the University must cut more costs internally for the good of its students.