A University for Minnesotans

Requiring out-of-state students to at least pay what residents pay makes sense.

Since 1968, the University has granted reciprocity to students from Wisconsin. Minnesota also has agreements with North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba – agreements meant to encourage students to attend schools in other states and to foster intellectual and cultural diversity throughout the Midwest and Manitoba. If nearby states’ students don’t have to pay exorbitant out-of-state tuition rates, going to an out-of-state school is infinitely more feasible.

The idea is laudable, and reciprocity agreements do work this way, but our agreement is outdated. Created when the schools’ tuition rates were comparable, the system is designed so out-of-state students pay what their own state schools would charge rather than Minnesota’s in-state tuition.

Of particular concern is Wisconsin, whose state system’s tuition has increased much less dramatically than Minnesota’s. This means Wisconsin students actually pay less than Minnesota students to attend the University, by approximately $1,100 per year (while Minnesota students likewise pay $1,100 more to attend Wisconsin schools than Wisconsin students). Now, the University rightly wants to rectify this inequality.

Changing this system only makes sense from both economic and fairness perspectives. Last year, Minnesota “exported” approximately 23,000 students to Wisconsin schools and received approximately 19,000 Wisconsin students in return. That’s 4,000 students each paying $1,100 less than Minnesota students to our University, and 4,000 more students each paying $1,100 more to Wisconsin schools.

Some lawmakers argue that while Wisconsin students pay less in tuition, they still pay Minnesota tax dollars if they choose to stay in Minnesota. But many out-of-state students return home after their undergraduate education, and the State Legislature should not bank on having the economic benefits of those students for years to come. And the same could be said for Minnesota students choosing to stay in Wisconsin.

In the end, the reciprocity deal is win-win for Wisconsin and lose-lose for Minnesota. Changing the deal to simply giving reciprocity students in-state tuition makes much more economic sense for Minnesota and still allows for student exchange across states.