Tuition freeze disbanded

by Benjamin Farniok

A higher education funding bill may increase tuition next year for University of Minnesota undergraduate students if Gov. Mark Dayton signs off on it.

This legislative session, the University requested a $65.2 million increase in state funding to freeze tuition over the next two years, but the state will only provide about a third of the request, disappointing some legislators.

The final bill passed in the state Senate and House of Representatives Sunday after consideration in a conference committee on higher education.

The University of Minnesota pushed for a tuition freeze from the state over the last academic year.

The University requested a total of $148.2 million from the state government for 2016 and 2017 to pay for several University projects, including a tuition freeze and research. The bill will provide only $52.2 million starting in July.

Ryan Olson, government relations director for the Minnesota Student Association, said he was disappointed with the low funding the state’s bill promises.

“It decreases the priority of higher education, in my mind, in the state,” he said.

Some legislators, like Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, said they think the University should have received more funding than laid out in the bill.

Pelowski said he thinks —given a nearly $2 billion state surplus­ — the legislature should have allocated part of the funds to pay for a tuition freeze for the University and other state colleges.

Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said he thinks a $6,000 tuition increase for out-of-state students would allow the University to freeze tuition for residents.

“A $6,000 increase over two years would not put us at the top of graduate and undergraduate tuition, it would simply move us a little bit towards the middle,” he said.

Among Big Ten schools, the University ranks as the fourth highest for in-state tuition and last for non-resident undergraduate students.

Though tuition has increased steadily over the past seven years, University President Eric Kaler told legislative representatives a more gradual increase in tuition would avoid chasing away students.