Deadline set in reciprocity tiff

University officials have threatened to pull out if no deal is made by fall of 2008.

Mitch Anderson

Controversy has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time in the Wisconsin reciprocity debate, but it might have finally boiled over.

University officials are saying that unless Wisconsin’s government agrees to cooperate in changing the current system, they will pull out of the agreement in the fall of 2008.

The agreement, which has been in place between the two states for the last 40 years, has allowed tens of thousands of Wisconsin and Minnesota students to attend college across state borders without paying out-of-state tuition rates.

“We are still negotiating with the state of Wisconsin, and I still retain some hope that we will work out the issues,” University president Bob Bruininks said. “It’s really important that we make a decision now on this issue because it’s only fair that we give students a year’s notice.”

University spokesman Dan Wolter said the Board of Regents has the authority to withdraw the University from the reciprocity agreement without state approval. The University would then be free to restructure its own agreement with Wisconsin. Other Minnesota colleges and universities would still remain in the current agreement.

The pullout language is part of a budget resolution that the regents will discuss later this week and vote on June 27.

According to the budget resolution, the University “can no longer accept the principles and structure of the current agreement, as last revised in 1997, which it has asked the state to change, without success.”

Under the University’s plan, incoming Wisconsin residents would begin paying Minnesota resident rates starting when they enter school in 2008.

Since officials made the reciprocity agreement a decade ago, tuition has increased at different rates in both states. As a result, there’s a large disparity in tuition rates between Wisconsin and Minnesota residents, Bruininks said.

Current Wisconsin residents attending the University pay an average of $1,500 less than their Minnesota counterparts – which causes the University to lose approximately $6 million dollars per year, according to Bruininks.

Wisconsin students already attending the University or who start next fall would not be affected by the pullout.

“No student currently studying on a campus on the U of M from Wisconsin will be hit with a bigger tuition bill,” Bruininks said. “It will be phased in over the next four years by asking each new freshmen class to pay the Minnesota rate.”

Bruininks added that this is not meant to be a move to deter Wisconsin students from attending Minnesota colleges.

“It’s not a retreat from the principals of reciprocity,” he said. “Eighteen percent of students on the Minnesota campus were originally from Wisconsin. These talented students are a valued part of the campus community.”

Robyn Kennedy, a University advertising junior and Wisconsin resident, said she felt that the proposed pullout was only fair.

“I feel that the education is about equal and it’s not really fair that we’re paying less than Minnesota residents,” she said.

Kennedy added that she didn’t really feel that an increase in tuition would change her decision to attend the University.

This move is not meant to change the spirit of the reciprocity agreement, Bruininks said.

“Reciprocity means that we welcome you to study at the University of Minnesota and we expect you to pay what Minnesota residents pay to attend our campuses,” he said. “That’s all this is about.”