Bill would change tuition

Brady Averill

The tuition gap between Minnesota and Wisconsin students attending the University might get smaller in the near future.

Sen. Yvonne Prettner Solon, DFL-Duluth, introduced a bill to the Senate Higher Education Finance Committee on Tuesday that would mandate Wisconsin students pay a tuition rate at least equal to the resident tuition rate. Revenue from the increased tuition would be given to the Minnesota institution the Wisconsin student attends.

Wisconsin students at the University now pay tuition similar to rates in their home state, rather than Minnesota rates, which are higher.

Sen. Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said she likes the idea of the revenue funneling back to higher education institutions.

“It might take some adjustments on (the state’s) budget,” she said.

If the bill becomes law, Wisconsin students would be grandfathered into paying Minnesota tuition during a four-year period.

Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota Higher Education Services Office, said she is concerned the bill might null Minnesota’s reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin.

HESO is trying to determine how the bill would affect the agreement, she said.

Heegaard is renegotiating the reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin. The talks started after University President Bob Bruininks wrote to her about changing the reciprocity agreement, she said.

Peter Zetterberg, director of University Institutional Research and Reporting, said that not until recently has the gap been “patently unfair” for Minnesota students.

Greg Fox, vice chancellor of the University’s Duluth campus, said the tuition gap is an important issue on his campus. There, Minnesota students pay almost $1,600 more than students from Wisconsin.

“They should not have that advantage over a student graduating from a Minnesota high school,” he said.

When Minnesota and Wisconsin set up their reciprocity agreement, Zetterberg said, the rationale was not to give students a financial incentive to attend a higher education institution outside of their home state.

Minnesota has had a reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin since 1968.

Other legislative news

Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, introduced a bill to the committee that would divert money from the state’s general fund to the University’s occupational therapy and medical technology programs for the next two years.

The University has suspended enrollment to the occupational therapy program.

During the last three years, there have also been cuts to the medical technology program.

Donna Spannaus-Martin, director of the University medical technology program, said, “We’re such a small program that if we cut any more and if we lose another person, we can’t survive.”

Robling said she is interested in how Frank Cerra, University vice president of the Academic Health Center, made decisions about the two programs.