Reciprocity might undergo changes

JP Leider

Although the Minnesota-Wisconsin reciprocity agreement saw its annual reapproval come without much noise this year, next year Wisconsin-native students might be in for a potentially expensive change.

In last year’s higher education funding bill, legislators called on the Minnesota Office of Higher Education to renegotiate the Minnesota-Wisconsin reciprocity agreement to “address the tuition disparity for Wisconsin students attending University of Minnesota campuses and have as a goal the reduction of this disparity.”

For the upcoming academic year, that disparity will amount to Minnesota residents attending the Twin Cities campus paying more than $1,000 more tuition than their Wisconsin counterparts.

Susan Heegaard, director of the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, said this year being a nonbudget year made change difficult.

“We and the governor are supportive of moving to close this gap, but we want to make sure it’s considered as part of the overall budget process,” she said.

Decreasing the disparity could leave a $6 million to $7 million hole in the Minnesota state budget – what Wisconsin pays to the Minnesota general fund for the difference in credits taken and enrollment numbers, according to senior analyst Peter Zetterberg with Institutional Research and Reporting.

As the budget situation is “tenuous,” Heegaard said, a change can be made only when considering the change within the broader context of the higher education and state budgets.

The state Office of Higher Education will present Wisconsin with a proposal this fall for the 2007-2008 academic year that would aim to “to close the gap to create a more equitable situation for Minnesotan students,” Heegaard said.

The proposal will become public this fall, she said.

For the 2006-2007 academic year, Wisconsin students attending the Twin Cities campus will pay $1,191 less in tuition and required fees for the year than Minnesota residents, according to Zetterberg. At the Morris campus, Minnesota residents will pay $2,720 more than Wisconsinites attending the school.

In 2005-2006, more than 5,200 Wisconsin-native students attended the Twin Cities campus, Zetterberg said.

For nonresidents who don’t qualify for reciprocity or grants, a year’s tuition and required fees amount to $21,040.

“We want the agreement to be like the North Dakota and South Dakota agreement, where a student pays a higher tuition on the campus attended or of a comparable campus in their home state,” he said.

However, Zetterberg said, the Minnesota Office of Higher Education is taking its time to renegotiate the agreement.

“It might cost the state $7 million. The $7 million we’re not getting in tuition revenue is now benefiting the general fund in the state of Minnesota,” he said.

Zetterberg said he hopes the Minnesota-Wisconsin agreement will change soon, although he doesn’t expect it to.

This year, the Office of Student Finance estimated the cost of attendance for Minnesota residents will be $19,258 and $18,076 for Wisconsin residents.

Craig Swan, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education, said that while the current Minnesota-Wisconsin reciprocity agreement is unfair to Minnesota residents because of the tuition and fees disparity, reciprocity does allow the University and students more opportunity.

“It’s a good deal for students in general and for the University because we’re able to attract good students from Wisconsin,” he said. “It gives greater choice to students.”