U hikes tuition for next 2 years

Kari Petrie

Students will pay a 14.8 percent tuition increase for the 2003-04 school year and another 13 percent increase for 2004-05, University President Robert Bruininks said Thursday at a Board of Regents meeting.

Next year will be the third consecutive year students have experienced double-digit tuition increases. In 2002, tuition went up 16 percent after a 13.8 percent increase in 2001.

The size of the tuition increase is partially in response to Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed $185 million University budget cut.

Despite the increases, Bruininks said, the institution will continue to have a “strong commitment” to student financial aid.

“I worry about judging the long term when sitting in the middle of the worst term we’ve faced in the last 70 or 80 years,” Bruininks said.

Regents dedicated a meeting to discuss the effects of the current financial aid systems on students.

Vice Provost Craig Swan said Pell grants – grants awarded by the federal government – award the same amount of money regardless of a student’s tuition.

State grants recognize the cost of attendance at a student’s school. Therefore, a student who attends an institution with higher tuition receives more money.

The financial system gives 52 percent of state grant money to private school students, who make up approximately 34 percent of those applying for state grants, Swan said.

Swan said the Legislature expects students to fund their own education.

Pell grant awards have been increasing slowly because the government has created more tax credits for students and parents, he said.

Swan also outlined how family contribution, work-study, loans, grants and scholarships make up financial aid packages for low-, middle- and high-income levels.

Jacob Elo, a student representative to the board, said it is important for regents to remember all students have unique financial situations, which might hinder their chances for receiving financial aid.

He said some students might have parents who are able to pay tuition but will not support them financially.

The current financial aid system expects parents to contribute to their children’s education.

Dan Feeney, Faculty Consulta-tive Committee chairman, said regents need to ensure University access and increase student diversity while considering tuition increases and financial aid. Feeney said the faculty committee has not discussed student financial aid yet and his views are not representative of the group.

Feeney also said students are making career decisions based on how much they can make to pay off their college debt.

Regents also discussed the problems facing graduate and professional students who do not receive grants and work-study opportunities as undergraduates.

Professional student programs, including law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and veterinary medicine, require students to attend full time, without exception and with little opportunity to work.

Graduate students rely more heavily on University employment than undergraduates. Teaching and research assistants who work part time pay no tuition and earn $11,000 to $14,000 per year.

Kari Petrie covers Board of Regents and administration. She welcomes comments at [email protected]