U gets the short end of reciprocity stick

The 1983 Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity pact was designed to increase students’ choices in academic programs. The agreement allows Minnesotans at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to pay their home state tuition, and Wisconsinites at the University of Minnesota to do the same. But since Wisconsin tuition is much lower than that of Minnesota, in-state students get the raw deal.
Undergraduate Minnesota residents now pay about $1,300 more per year than Wisconsin students. The tuition disparity between the law schools is even greater — Minnesotans there pay at least $3,300 more. Reciprocity also results in a critical loss in revenue for the University. The tuition discrepancy results in an annual loss for the University of $3.9 million. The Legislature doles out around $1.3 million to compensate for the disparity; the University pays the rest. At any rate, Minnesota taxpayers pick up part of the tab for students from Wisconsin. Furthermore, Minnesotans’ monetary incentive to attend Madison is also limited because there they pay the higher Minnesota rates.
The Minnesota-Wisconsin agreement is very unusual. Students from North Dakota, South Dakota and Manitoba have reciprocity, but they pay the Minnesota resident tuition. Philip Lewenstein, University director of communications and legislations for higher education services, emphasizes that reciprocity increases educational options for Minnesota and Wisconsin students. That might no longer be true for Minnesotans. When the deal was made in 1983, tuition rates in the two states were about the same. In 1983, an undergraduate student paid a yearly amount of $1,122 in Wisconsin and $1,526 in Minnesota. When that number increased to $2,651 in Wisconsin and $3,929 in Minnesota for the 1996-97 school year, the disparity almost tripled.
The Board of Regents is understandably tentative in making any drastic changes in the reciprocity agreement. If a change discourages Wisconsinites from attending the University, the University might lose — both revenue and highly qualified students. There are more than 3,000 Wisconsin students on the Twin Cities campus. Tom Gilson, senior analyst for the office of planning and analysis, states that the tuition discount is the key.
But there’s evidence that the agreement isn’t working for Wisconsin either. Val Olson, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Higher Educational Board, states that more Wisconsin students are attending the University than Minnesota students are attending Madison. Lower tuition could be the strongest attraction. However, a high recruitment of Wisconsinites means less money for the University. It’s unfair that Minnesotans have to make up for this loss.
The Minnesota-Wisconsin agreement expires in July 1998. The University’s Board of Regents must modify the current reciprocity agreement. It’s clearly unfair, and in some ways works against both states. The playing field must be leveled, especially if reciprocity discourages Minnesota residents from attending Madison. Any new agreement should be modeled after more standard reciprocity deals where students pay the same in-state tuition as everyone else. That’s simply the fairest way.