Inequality in reciprocity

Regents end tuition loss but do not address disproportionate tuition for undergraduates.

The University Board of Regents approved a revised reciprocity deal between Minnesota and Wisconsin last Friday that benefits the University, but not in-state undergraduates.

In the past academic year, University officials threatened to end Minnesota’s 40-year-old reciprocity arrangement with Wisconsin.

The agreement allows Wisconsin students to attend Minnesota public colleges at the cost of an equivalent Wisconsin school. The tuition rates were generally similar up until seven years ago. Currently, due to disproportionate Minnesota tuition increases compared to those in Wisconsin, undergraduates from Wisconsin pay about $1,200 a year less in tuition than Minnesota undergraduates at the University, $1,700 at Duluth and $2,700 at Morris.

In order to compensate, the state of Wisconsin pays the difference to a Minnesota state general fund. As a result, the money does not necessarily make its way back to the University school system – the University says it has lost roughly $7 million a year.

Therefore, when University officials proposed to the Board of Regents last June that the University should leave the reciprocity pact, the University’s sole motive – despite citing unequal tuition burdens for Minnesotans as grounds for withdrawal – was to end the loss of tuition revenue.

This was proved last week when the Board of Regents reworked the reciprocity agreement to require that the state of Wisconsin pay the tuition difference directly to the University of Minnesota instead of the state general fund. Though the University certainly has the right to recoup its tuition loses, it was wrong of officials to use the unfair difference in tuition between Wisconsin and Minnesota students if, in actuality, they were only seeking to redirect Wisconsin’s reimbursement.

While the University will no longer lose money due to reciprocity, Wisconsin and Minnesota undergraduates who live, work and study in Minnesota will continue to disproportionately pay for the same education.

Though, Wisconsin students should not be forced to pay higher tuition rates as the University initially proposed last June. Instead, the Minnesota Legislature should strive, as Wisconsin’s, to invest more in higher education.