It’s time to talk tuition

Amidst a stimulus smokescreen and little outcry, tuition continues to soar.

This paper ran a story last Tuesday detailing the federal stimulus money which has been allocated to the University of Minnesota. The story failed to mention an essential piece of information: the funds designated to offset enormous increases in tuition will expire after next year, leaving students and families to absorb the full burden starting fall 2011. This past legislative session the Higher Education Omnibus bill, from which the University of Minnesota receives its state funding, included $50.1 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to buy down tuition increases over the next two years. Undergraduate resident tuition increased this year by $720 or 7.3%. Next year tuition is projected to increase again year by roughly $780 or 7.5%. Thanks to the ARRA, also known as the federal stimulus package, tuition payments will provisionally increase by about half that much, or $300 and $450, respectively. In the fall of 2011, however, students will begin paying the full $1500 increase on top of the tuition hikes which may result from the reduction in state allocations. Unlike the misleading 3% increase readily touted as this yearâÄôs tuition figure, students and families should be very clear that tuition has already increased this year alone by 7.5%. While students and families donâÄôt have to pay that yet, they will in they very near future, and it likely gets worse. A nine percent tuition increase for the 2011 academic year, entirely possible given the largely unresolved state budget crisis, would put tuition well over $12,000 for undergraduate residents. In 2000, tuition for a resident undergraduate was a mere $4,401. Oh, how very near the good âÄòol days seem. University of Minnesota Treasurer and CFO Richard Pfutzenreuter stated that President Bruininks has made it a priority to seek more money for scholarships to help offset these increases, but he acknowledged that it would be unrealistic to expect all of the federal stimulus money to be replaced with new scholarships. Minnesota Student Association President Paul Strain is advocating for students to become educated on the tuition issue early, so that they can have the most influence when the Fiscal Year 2012 budget is being crafted. âÄúStudent apathy is the number one way for tuition to go up.âÄù Paul Strain is right. Administrators donâÄôt seem to take students, families and other critics of skyrocketing tuition seriously mostly because criticism has remained disorganized and casual. As a result, undergraduate resident tuition at the University has increased well over 150% in the last decade. Of course, during May testimony President Bruininks assured the Minnesota legislature that “We can’t add very much. I don’t want to burden our students and their families.” Although he did admit that tuition increases are the âÄúquickest and easiest wayâÄù to raise money for the University. Students cannot expect this unbearable tuition situation to improve without dedicated and vocal involvement. Join your college board, join or attend the meetings of the Student Senate or the Minnesota Student Association and help address these exorbitant tuition hikes. Write letters to the editor, write the Board of Regents and other administrators. Better yet, organize, raise awareness and protest. Students were once known for their activism. Reclaim that legacy; the time for passive acceptance of inexcusable tuition hikes has passed. Note: In “Rappin’ with Robert” in the September 15, 2009 issue of the Minnesota Daily, University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks is quoted as saying, “Student tuition increases will not exceed 3 percent this year and not exceed 4.5 percent next year.” But these numbers hide their temporary nature. In fact, tuition increased by more than 7% this year and is projected to increase by 7.5% next year. The Daily Editorial Board is not calling President Bruininks a liar, but he is definitely not telling the whole truth.