Tuition deal reached

The agreement, which will likely pass, would not increase Wisconsin students’ tuition bills.

Minnesota and Wisconsin reached an agreement Friday that extends a 40-year-old reciprocity deal without significantly affecting students from either state.

Last year, Wisconsin residents paid $1,190 less than Minnesota residents to attend the University. The new agreement will charge Wisconsin residents tuition rates equal to those paid by Minnesota residents, but a Wisconsin state supplement will reimburse them for the difference.

According to the Minnesota Department of Finance, Wisconsin paid $7.8 million to the state’s general fund last year. Wisconsin has always paid some of the difference in tuition, but now it will pay the University directly instead of the state.

Starting in 2008, incoming first-year students from Wisconsin will get a bill that shows the tuition rate after the supplement has been factored into the total. Students will not have to pay the supplement beforehand.

Peter Zetterberg, University director of institutional research and reporting, estimates the University will see $8 million to $9 million more per year after full implementation.

The additional revenue will help minimize future tuition increases, Zetterberg said.

The debate over the reciprocity system has intensified over the past few years. This year, the University threatened to pull out of the agreement, forcing the two states to act quickly. A vote would have been taken at Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting if the agreement hadn’t been reached.

University spokesman Dan Wolter said this agreement appears to resolve the University’s concerns regarding the existing reciprocity agreement.

The University wanted to move closer to a model where each state would pay amounts closer to the other’s in-state tuition, Wolter said.

In the previous agreement, the money paying for the reduced tuition rates was not passing through to the University. This helps address that problem, he said.

Barb Schlaeser worked with the Minnesota Department of Higher Education and Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee to create the deal.

“It took awhile to get everyone in the same place,” Schlaeser said. “The threat to pull out (from the University) clearly sent a message that it was serious about this.”

If the University pulled out of the reciprocity agreement, it would have jeopardized the entire partnership between Minnesota and Wisconsin, she said.

The agreement will likely pass, pending the approval of the Board of Regents, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees and the Wisconsin Legislature Joint Finance Committee.

Schlaeser said she was very pleased with the final agreement. She expects no complications from the Minnesota side of the river and has not heard of any from the Wisconsin side.

“Whenever we can remove barriers for students to have more (higher education) options, it’s a good thing,” Schlaeser said.

Patricia Simmons, vice chair of the Board of Regents, said the reciprocity agreement is likely to pass through the board.

“This would satisfy the principles that we would like to achieve,” Simmons said.

Wisconsin state representative Kitty Rhoades praised the agreement for finding a solution to the reciprocity conflict.

“It’s not impacting our families financially on either side,” Rhoades said.

Wisconsin pays for the difference in tuition using the additional tuition rates Minnesota residents pay when attending state schools in Wisconsin.

The only thing that will change on the Wisconsin side of the deal is where to send the check, Rhoades said.