University juggles value of out-of-state tuition hike

U officials say a firm decision and amount will be announced by mid-summer.

Youssef Rddad

Differing views are stacking up as a tuition increase approaches for out-of-state students at the University of Minnesota. 
Last month, the Board of Regents approved raising tuition rates for nonresident, nonreciprocity students to a rate that would sit in middle of the Big Ten schools. But students, University officials and administration are divided about the tuition hikes. 
Nonresident, nonreciprocity students’ tuition currently sits at $20,660 per school year, which is the lowest rate in the Big Ten. Regents are divided on what the rate of the increase should be over the next few years and haven’t announced an exact dollar amount. 
University President Eric Kaler originally proposed raising the cost by $3,200 each year over the next four years, but some regents worry the increase would be too high and abrupt. 
He proposed a discount for current out-of-state students which would cap the increase for them at 5.5 percent, he said.
“I think we have to go very slowly on this,” said Regent Peggy Lucas at a March board meeting.
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Bob McMaster said he speculates the tuition will increase by $3,200 for next year and the University will continue proposed increases each year. 
McMaster said Regents could leave tuition unchanged, though it’s not likely. 
Regent Darrin Rosha said if the University does not attract more in-state students, state appropriations to the University may continue declining.
Discussions about the raise have repeatedly come up in legislative meetings, said Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona.
“We cannot subsidize citizens from other states,” he said. “We’re having enough trouble trying to subsidize our own citizens, who are paying for the University of Minnesota either through tax dollars or tuition.”
Rosha said nonresident students, especially international students, still choose schools with higher tuition.
University of Michigan has the highest out-of-state tuition in the Big Ten, Rosha said. Still, the school sees high out-of-state numbers because the state’s high school graduates are less prepared for college, he said. 
To avoid sticker shock for prospective students, University leaders said they hope to inform them of financial aid and gift options earlier. 
Callie Livengood, a student representative to the board, said the move to increase out-of-state tuition favors Minnesotan students and is an “unwelcoming” gesture. 
“Out-of-state students are now the cash cow,” she said, adding that she’s noticed an 8 percent decrease in student enrollment confirmations since talks began in December.
Changing state demographics
Between 2008 and 2012, more students left Minnesota for school than those who came, according to a Minnesota State Demographic Center study. 
“Retaining more of our college-bound young adults at in-state institutions may be a key strategy to long-term population retention and labor force development,” the study said. 
Despite trends that suggest students often leave Minnesota, Livengood said she would like to continue living in the state after she graduates. 
Regent Michael Hsu said he would be in favor of raising in-state enrollment rates at the University by 75 percent, during a meeting last month.
And McMaster said incoming students are often drawn to the school because of the high numbers of out-of-state and international students. 
But attracting out-of-state students can be difficult, McMaster said. 
Of the more than 7,000 out-of-state, nonreciprocity students admitted last year, 826 ended up enrolling, according to the Office of Undergraduate Education. 
“This is not an easy place to recruit to,” McMaster said. “It’s viewed by many as a ‘climatology’ challenged place.” 
Regents are expected to discuss tuition increases again when the board meets in May, and a decision should be made for fall semester increases by June.
Livengood said she is disappointed that the decision will be reached when most students aren’t on campus because they may have little input and less time to financially plan for a tuition bump.