Board of Regents confirm undergraduate tuition freeze for next academic year

The board meeting also focused on the regents’ concerns, including student enrollment and the budget.

The Board of Regents meet about the East Gateway Project Resolution, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The Board of Regents holds a meeting each month.

Emily Urfer

The Board of Regents meet about the East Gateway Project Resolution, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The Board of Regents holds a meeting each month.

by Hana Ikramuddin and Abbey Machtig

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a tuition freeze and discussed enrollment and budget concerns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at a special meeting Tuesday.

The board unanimously approved a systemwide tuition freeze for next academic year, a proposal that was first discussed at another special meeting on April 7. However, the freeze will not apply to all students, with the Medical School, School of Dentistry and three master’s programs in the College of Science and Engineering being left out. 

Senior Vice President for Finance and Operations Brian Burnett said the tuition freeze would take out $25 million in new revenue from the University’s budget for next year. 

“A central theme is uncertainty, and whatever certainty we can offer to students and their families will go a long way,” Regent Mike Kenyanya said at the meeting.

The board also discussed the impacts COVID-19 may have on enrollment in coming years.

Due to cancellations of recent ACT and SAT exam dates, the board is considering the University becoming test optional for next year’s admissions process.

The majority of the incoming class have made decisions regarding their admissions status and the University expects around 6,000 freshmen to enroll by May 1 systemwide, a number that is comparable to this year’s enrollment.

Regents continued to discuss the financial implications of COVID-19 and the impact on the University’s budget. 

At the April 7 meeting, University President Joan Gabel announced a hiring freeze. On Tuesday, she described other internal budget cuts being implemented. However, the University is not in a fiscal emergency, Burnett said.

“I do not believe that a [fiscal emergency] is a place where the University finds itself today. Could we be there one day, possibly,” Burnett said at the meeting. “I don’t believe the time is here today where we need to consider that action.” 

University of Minnesota Physicians is another area of the University being financially impacted, reporting $20 million in lost revenue over the month of April. University of Minnesota Physicians has also taken several actions to cut spending, such as reducing retirement contributions and volunteer salaries. University of Minnesota Physicians  expects to receive approximately $4 million in federal and state support. 

“We are here to report the looming challenge economically of the practice and state that we may need help in the future,” Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar said at the meeting.

Additionally, the University as a whole will receive $36 million from the federal economic stimulus bill, or CARES Act. Of that amount, $18 million is designated for student support.

Executive Vice President and Provost Rachel Croson shared projections for the best and worst case scenarios the University could face in the coming academic year.  

In the best case scenario, Croson warned that many international students may face problems returning to the University. However, most domestic students will be able to return to campus and complete fall semester in-person. In a more severe case, the University could spend fall semester entirely online.

While the extremes are clear, the moderate scenarios are not as easily defined, Croson said.

“This is a challenging time for the University,” Croson said at the meeting. “We remain committed to academic excellence and student success.”

Correction: a previous version of this article misstated the organization that is reducing spending and is expected to receive about $4 million in federal and state support. It is the University of Minnesota Physicians, not the Medical School.