Put tuition freeze on ice

Freezing tuition would hurt students more than it would help.

by Daily Editorial Board

State Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, had his heart in the right place when he introduced a bill last Wednesday that would freeze tuition at MinnesotaâÄôs public universities. Certainly high tuition is a growing problem for college students, but a tuition freeze by itself is not the right solution.

A tuition freeze looks like it would benefit students at the University of Minnesota, where tuition has doubled since 2001. But this is a simplistic, short-term point of view. The state has already limited the revenues of public universities through insufficient funding. Constricting revenues even further by freezing tuition will hamstring them and lower educational quality across the board.

The University has already shown it will take steps like furloughs and cutting course offerings to deal with budget issues before it reigns in nonacademic spending. More of the same would be an even worse outcome than the tuition hikes the freeze would prevent.

Furthermore, the University system would not even have to comply with the bill, since it enjoys a constitutional status that prevents the state from controlling its tuition prices.

While a tuition freeze on its own may not be an effective solution to the problems of higher education, there are other measures that the Legislature could take that might be more effective. For example, increased state funding could be tied to a complementary lowering of tuition. This would make students better off while keeping the UniversityâÄôs revenues stable.

High tuition is an important issue, and we are encouraged that the state Legislature is trying to address it. However, a tuition freeze would only hurt the public university students it is trying to help.