Tuition freeze is not enough

Last Friday, University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler pitched the idea of extending the two-year undergraduate tuition freeze by another year to the Board of Regents. The current tuition freeze is set to expire at the end of spring semester, and if it is not extended, University students are likely to face a hike in the cost of education the following year. This is a good step by Kaler, but it is not enough. We need to see a drop in the cost of education at the University. This has been a consistent demand by student activists for years.

The cost of tuition is already out of control, and it’s getting worse. In the past decade, the cost of in-state, undergraduate tuition has swelled from $5,720 a year in 2002 to $12,060 a year in 2012, when the two-year tuition freeze was instituted — a twofold increase. Has the value of our education really doubled since 2002? Tuition is already too high, and it is simply not good enough to freeze tuition at a level already unacceptable for a public university. Kaler and the Board of Regents need to take action to reverse this trend now.

It is also not acceptable to excuse bloated tuition costs by deferring to national trends or the existence of a market rate in higher education. In comparison, the average in-state tuition and fees for public, four-year colleges is $7,407, almost half of what we pay when fees are added in. Furthermore, this is not just the case for so called second-tier schools and non-research universities.

In-state tuition for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, a school ranked in the upper echelon of public research universities, is only $6,423 per year. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, we are two years into the tuition freeze and the University of Minnesota is still on the list of most expensive public schools in the country, ranking 22nd with the highest tuition among public four-year schools. This doesn’t have to be the case. With a $1.2 billion estimated budget surplus, the state government should consider fully funding the University with promises that the additional funding goes directly toward making our colleges more, not less, affordable.

Kaler and the Board of Regents have found money to pay several professors and leaders more than $400,000 a year and $190 million to construct the new “athletic village” training facilities. They now need to find money to make college more affordable for Minnesota’s working families. Students need to raise their voices and tell their legislators and university administration that the tuition freeze is not enough, and tuition needs to drop now.