Opinions of tuition increase are mixed

by Kristin Gustafson

A possible tuition increase received a mixed reaction from students who met with University President Mark Yudof earlier this week.
Yudof proposed the 5.5 percent tuition increase, an amount well above inflation, to help pay for a 3 percent faculty and staff salary increase.
Many students said while they disliked the tuition hike, which adds $125 per full-time student per semester, they also support the move.
Students voiced concerns about the consequences — good and bad — of Yudof’s proposed changes.
Piyali Dalal, English and international relations senior, said the tuition hike is an unfortunate consequence of the Legislature’s misguided priorities of giving tax rebate money back to the wealthy instead of choosing to invest in the University.
Even though numbers show University, state and federal financial aid increasing to levels that offset part of the tuition increase, Dalal said this can add a bureaucratic step for students already overwhelmed with navigating through the University.
First-generation students — those who are the first in their families to attend college — might be deterred by the process despite the promises of financial support, Dalal said. “Financial aid is just another huge thing for them to work through.”
Mike Pawson, Council of Graduate Students president, said he saw the issue from two sides.
The increased college costs hurt students in the pocketbook, but Pawson wanted faculty, staff and graduate students to get paid more.
Pawson, a fourth-year chemical engineering graduate student, said the recent drop in graduate-program rankings is disappointing, and increased salaries would improve the University’s standing.
“You get what you pay for,” Pawson said. “We are not really well-served if our faculty go elsewhere.”
Pawson, who earns a salary as a University graduate student, said 3 percent is hardly a raise. But half of the graduate students work outside of the University and might not be as receptive to a plan that doesn’t benefit the pocketbook as directly, he added. “We’re split.”
Matt Clark, marketing and finance junior and Minnesota Student Association president-elect, said he vehemently opposes the proposed tuition hike.
However, he has no plans to protest on campus.
“I think we need to be careful about picking our enemies, and our enemy right now is not President Yudof,” Clark said.
The target of Clark’s anger is the state Legislature and Gov. Jesse Ventura. At a time of state surpluses, Clark said there is no reason for the Legislature to hold back University funding in exchange for tax rebates, which few students receive.
“If I had to choose between adults having one more trip to the casino vs. students paying more in tuition, I would opt for funding the University every time,” Clark said.
Elvira Carrizal, journalism and Chicano studies senior, supported the tuition increase as long as the amount of need-based scholarships and financial aid matches student need.
According to University statistics, Pell and state grant awards will be at least $1,000 more than the annual tuition for all full-time students.
Carrizal, a broadcast student, said the University’s lack of funding meant she did not touch a video camera until her junior year, and her exposure to faculty of color was minimal. If a tuition increase paid enough to recruit faculty of color to the University, the cost would be worth it, she said.
Sixth-year senior Blake Chupka said increasing University tuition is justified if it allows better access to and closer relationships with faculty members.
“To a considerable degree, the quality of the institution depends on the quality of the faculty,” he said.
Heidi Frederickson, a political science junior at the University of Minnesota-Morris and Board of Regents student representatives president, said keeping tuition as low as possible is an ongoing student concern. Each additional year at a university makes paying tuition harder because of students’ decreased access to grants, savings and parents, she said.
Frederickson and student regent representatives will meet Thursday to agree on a student perspective. It is expected she will present this viewpoint at the 1:30 p.m. board meeting, after Yudof presents his proposed budget to the regents.
The board will hold a public forum on the University budget, which includes the tuition increase proposal, on April 28. Individuals wishing to participate in this forum must contact the board office by April 24.

Kristin Gustafson covers University administration and federal government and welcomes comments at [email protected]