Tuition gap at U second lowest in Big Ten

There is a $5,250 difference between resident and nonresident tuition.

Tuition gap at U second lowest in Big Ten

Cody Nelson

 

Amid growing controversy, the University of Minnesota will raise non-resident tuition rates next fall, widening the relatively small difference between resident and non-resident tuition rates.

Critics of the current rates say a wider tuition gap could make the University more accessible to Minnesota residents. The University already has one of the narrowest tuition gaps in the Big Ten.

Public discussion about the gap between resident and non-resident tuition grew when Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom, brought the issue to the state Legislature’s attention in January.

University officials independently “started to look at the out-of-state rate carefully” last fall and decided to increase tuition for non-reciprocity and international students in fall 2013, said Bob McMaster, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education.

The University currently has a $5,250 yearlong difference between resident and non-resident tuition in 2012-13. In the Big Ten, only Northwestern University, which charges the same rate for all students, has a narrower tuition gap than the University.

At other Big Ten universities, this gap can be two to four times larger, according to Big Ten university data. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor has the widest tuition gap with an average of more than $26,600.

Because of the University’s relatively narrow tuition gap, Barrett said the school is “subsidizing” non-resident tuition. He said the tuition gap at the University should be wider like other Big Ten schools to allow more Minnesota students to attend.

“It’s called the University of Minnesota for a reason,” Barrett said. “It’s a public university funded by the people of the state for the benefit, primarily but not exclusively, for the people of the state.”

Connie Alvarez, a family social science sophomore, said Barrett made “a good point” in suggesting that Minnesota residents should pay even lower tuition rates than nonresidents.

“It should be a privilege to be paying less,” she said. “It’s not like we’re trying to punish [nonresidents.]”

Other students, however, disagree with tuition-gap concerns and think non-resident rates should be kept lower.

“Raising the out-of-state tuition seems like kind of a bad idea,” said Kate Dahl, an international business sophomore and Minnesota resident.

“If you’re only allowing Minnesota students, [the University] might have to lower standards,” she said.

 

How rates are set

Five years ago, the University began addressing concerns about the makeup of its student body.

Officials noticed a “disturbing” decline in Minnesota high school graduation rates in conjunction with the lowest number of international students in the Big Ten, McMaster said.

“We really feel that geographical diversity is important for our student body,” McMaster said.

To address these concerns, the University created the R-4000 program, which set non-resident tuition rates at the resident rate, plus $4,000.

That additional charge for non-resident students has since increased to $5,250 and is set to increase by at least $1,000, McMaster said.

Since implementing this program narrowing the tuition gap, the University has increased its international student population from 1 to 2 percent to more than 8 percent, McMaster said.

Hugo Narumiya, an international student from Brazil who pays the non-resident rate, said he thinks it’s unfair for non

residents to pay extra tuition because they also pay taxes.

“It is really expensive for international students,” he said.

McMaster said efforts to increase non-resident students don’t limit access for Minnesotans because the overall student population is greater.

 

Moving forward

It’s unclear exactly what tuition rates will be next fall, but McMaster said Gov. Mark Dayton’s “very favorable” budget proposal will play a role in deciding rates.

“We don’t normally lock [tuition rates] in until we know what the state appropriation will be,” McMaster said, adding that he hopes the Legislature supports Dayton’s budget recommendations.

For resident undergraduates, McMaster said there will be no tuition increase or a very minimal one in fall 2013.

In the Legislature and elsewhere, Barrett said he has found support for his opinion and plans to continue pushing for a different tuition system.

“[The University] has an obligation to do what’s right for the residents of Minnesota.”