Reciprocity between Minn., Wis. fuels competition for students

by Tyler Gieseke

In a recent article, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examined the prominent role reciprocity plays in recruitment for Minnesota and Wisconsin public colleges and universities. With declining birthrates reducing the pool of potential students, the program will assist institutions in recruitment as they compete for well-qualified students, the Sentinel said.  

Thousands of Wisconsin high school seniors are applying this fall to Minnesota public institutions where they can receive reciprocity, according to the Sentinel, and most of them end up on the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. The reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin allows students to pay instate tuition even if they attend a public institution in the other state, Bloomberg Businessweek said.

The program helps both states fill its colleges and universities. Nearly half the enrollment at UW-River Falls and UW-Superior came from Minnesota in the 2011-12 academic year, the Sentinel said, and about 10,500 Wisconsin students attended public Minnesota institutions that year through the reciprocity program.

Many Wisconsin students looking at the University of Minnesota as a potential college choice seek both a Big Ten and a big city college experience, the Sentinel said. They might also be enticed by the prospect of being admitted to a particular college and taking classes in their major even as a freshman, something that isn’t permitted at the University of Wisconsin-Madison until sophomore year.  

In previous years, Wisconsin government covered the difference between the often higher Minnesota instate tuition and that of Wisconsin for its students in the reciprocity program, the Sentinel said.  

But due to pressures to make budget cuts, the Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee decided to end the supplement starting this fall. The decision was made in May of 2011, and would save the state an estimated $2.6 million over the 2012-13 biennium.

The retraction of the supplement will not affect students enrolled before 2012, Businessweek said, but by the start of the 2015 school year, no students will be eligible.

The Sentinel said the reciprocity program as a whole is not likely to go away.

"I think tuition reciprocity has served both states well, and I hope we can continue to do it," UW System President Kevin Reilly told the Sentinel.