Some lose out while budget bloats

Despite the tuition freeze, the University of Minnesota managed to increase its tuition revenue between 2011 and 2014 by 10 percent in real terms. It accomplished this in two steps. First, it drastically increased tuition for out-of-state students. This made out-of-state students relatively more “profitable” than Minnesotan residents, and much more “profitable” than Minnesotans from low-income families, who are entitled to as much as $4,000 a year in need-based aid from the University.

By 2014 the tuition revenue differential between an out-of-state student and a low-income Minnesotan had reached $10,000. This, combined with the University’s limitless lust for revenues, led the administration to undertake a dramatic shift in the makeup of the student body. The number of low-income students was lowered, and the number of students paying the out-of-state rate was increased by about 1,400 students from 2011 to 2014. The result is that the tuition freeze has actually made the University less accessible.

Strictly speaking, prior to the Higher Education Act of 1965, low-income students were unable to attend college not because they were poor, but because they did not have access to the means of funding their education. Today at the University, low-income students are being barred from attending — not because they do not have access to the necessary funds, but precisely because they are poor.

The economic consequences of a college degree are very different today than they were 50 years ago. Back then, having a college degree was a definite
advantage, but it was still quite common for individuals to make a good living without one. Today, prospects for a well-paying job among holders of an undergraduate degree are not so rosy, but for those without a degree the outlook is bleak.

Former President Lyndon Johnson began his remarks on the occasion of the signing of the Higher Education Act by noting, “The president’s signature upon this legislation passed by this Congress will swing open a new door for the young people of America. For them, and for this entire land of ours, it is the most important door that will ever open — the door to education.” Today, here in Minnesota, that door is being slammed shut.