Subsidy at risk for Wis. students

Under the proposal, Wisconsin students at the U would pay $1,400 more per year.

by John Hageman

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is taking another controversial approach to fight the stateâÄôs budget crisis, and this time, it could affect students at the University of Minnesota.

WalkerâÄôs budget proposal suggests changing the Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity agreement to eliminate a subsidy that helps Wisconsin students pay for higher tuition costs in Minnesota.

If the supplement is cut, it would mean Wisconsin residents attending the University of Minnesota would pay $1,400 more per year, according to Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

While WalkerâÄôs plan would cut the reciprocity supplement, it would not end the reciprocity program as a whole.

According to a report released Wednesday by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education, Wisconsin owed Minnesota and its colleges and universities $12.9 million in 2009 âÄî the highest total since 1975 âÄî because of higher tuition in the state.

That amount has increased every year since 2001-02 because tuition rates have increased more quickly in Minnesota than in Wisconsin, according to Jack Rayburn, manager of the Minnesota College Savings Plan.

Walker said cutting the subsidy would save Wisconsin taxpayers $12 million a year, but opponents like Wisconsin Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, said itâÄôs not worth putting the burden on students.

“We have a strong tradition of working with our neighbors in Minnesota to make higher education more accessible and affordable for students and families, but this proposal eliminates years of progress and takes us in the wrong direction,” Shilling said in a statement.

WisconsinâÄôs Joint Committee on Finance will discuss the proposal in the coming weeks.

Minnesota institutions have charged Wisconsin reciprocity students the higher of the two statesâÄô resident tuition rates at comparable institutions since 2008, according to Wisconsin legislative fiscal analyst Emily Pope.

The state of Wisconsin then provides a supplement to each Wisconsin reciprocity student to make up for the difference.

Under the reciprocity deal, Wisconsin residents are allowed to attend Minnesota public universities at in-state tuition rates.

According to the OHE report, more than 14,000 Minnesota residents attended a school in Wisconsin in 2009, while about 10,000 Wisconsin residents attended a Minnesota institution.

More than 5,000 Wisconsin residents attended the University of Minnesota in 2009. Winona State University has the second-most Wisconsin residents among Minnesota schools, with 2,103.