U plan would see some students paying more

The Board of Regents is considering charging different fee levels based on a student’s program.

Conor Shine

Undergraduates at the University of Minnesota pay the same tuition to enroll in any of the schoolâÄôs 11 colleges âÄî even though some studentsâÄô education is more expensive.
The cost structures in the colleges are very different, Provost Tom Sullivan said, and âÄúIf you have the same tuition for all undergraduates, then you run into a real problem of âÄòHow do we pay for extra costs associated with different colleges?âÄôâÄù
The University is considering a new fee that would make students in colleges with higher expenses shoulder some of the costs.
âÄúItâÄôs a policy question,âÄù budget director Julie Tonneson said. âÄúShould those costs be built into tuition and everyone pay for those costs, or should they be more refined?âÄù
Schools that run more intensive advising programs or have more expensive faculty tend to have higher costs, Sullivan said. He pointed to the Carlson School of Management as an example of market forces driving faculty salaries. The schoolâÄôs costs are higher than the University average.
The new fee would be charged on a college-by-college basis and would be added to technology or course fees students already pay.
A new, âÄúdifferentialâÄù pricing plan could be in place by the start of the next academic year, Sullivan said at the Board of Regents finance committee meeting Thursday. ItâÄôs still in early stages of discussion, he said, as the administration waits on likely state funding cuts.
Student board representative Chantal Wilson said sheâÄôs supportive of the idea because it will keep students from paying for things they donâÄôt benefit from.
But the Carlson junior said sheâÄôs worried that if fees get too out of hand, they could prevent students from pursuing the majors theyâÄôre interested in.
âÄúI worry about this deterring students from choosing some majors that can be fairly expensive simply because the fees are so large,âÄù Wilson said.
Simplifying fees
Students can be charged with more than 2,000 possible fees. The University is working to simplify the system so students know what theyâÄôre paying for.
âÄúWe had a lot of fees and a lot of structures in place, so it was time to look at them,âÄù Tonneson said.
Fees are charged from the University-wide level all the way down to the course level. Some, like the $1,300 University fee, are similar to tuition and help cover the cost of education. Other fees cover resources like printing, computer labs and course materials.
Not all colleges charge the same fees, and some have different names for fees that serve similar purposes.
Tonneson said the goal is to standardize what students can be charged by college and what those fees go toward. Administrators began reviewing fees last year and will present initial policy changes to the regents by the end of the school year.
Students pay thousands of dollars in fees annually but many gloss over them when keeping track of their finances.
Tonneson said the University is working to provide more information on studentsâÄô bills so they can see exactly where each fee goes.