A reciprocity for disaster

The key to preventing a reciprocity disaster is not by punishing Wisconsin students.

In recent years the reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin has been a source of tension. Indeed, the reciprocity agreement that allows students to attend the University for home-state tuition rates has resulted in Wisconsin students paying less than resident Minnesota students. A proposal authored by Rep. Joe Opatz, DFL-St. Cloud, currently working its way through the House of Representatives, tries to directly address the issue. Unfortunately, such attempts to tinker could be a recipe for disaster.

From the outside, the issue looks extremely unfair. Currently, Wisconsin students pay 28 percent less to attend the University than Minnesota students. The reasoning for this lies in how reciprocity works. Reciprocity allows students to attend Minnesota institutions and pay the tuition rates of similar colleges in their home state. Because University tuition is higher than the tuition of its Wisconsin counterparts, Minnesota students pay more to attend Wisconsin colleges than Wisconsin residents. Because University of Wisconsin tuition is cheaper than the University’s, Wisconsin students pay less for tuition.

If Opatz’s reciprocity bill is passed, Wisconsin students would not only feel the brunt of next year’s 15 percent University-wide tuition increase, but also pay an additional $1,100 to close the gap. Such a jump would further discourage Wisconsin students from attending the already increasingly expensive University of Minnesota. Wisconsinites might be impelled to change their own reciprocity formula and further undercut the University’s tuition rates in order to attract the brightest Minnesota students. In the end, the extra money garnered by changing the reciprocity formula might not be worth the loss of talent to Wisconsin.

The bottom line is not the reciprocity program formula but the ever-rising tuition at the University. As it stands, it is more expensive to attend a Minnesota institution because Wisconsin has managed to hold down tuition increases while Minnesota has not. The key to alleviating the tuition problem and preventing a reciprocity disaster is not by punishing Wisconsin students but by stopping skyrocketing tuition for all University students.