Reciprocity deal hurts University

The University could potentially end its reciprocity with Wisconsin.

We might be bitter rivals on the football field, but Minnesota and Wisconsin have a good relationship when it comes down to it. The reciprocity deal that allows college students to pay in-state rates and attend out-of-state schools has been an interstate success since its inception in 1968. However, a disparity in tuition rates has the University threatening to terminate the agreement.

The reciprocity program with Wisconsin is particularly robust with 26,000 students participating last year. While traditionally, Wisconsin and Minnesota have had similar tuition rates, a series of increases at the University of Minnesota have thrown the scale out of balance. As it stands now, Wisconsin students attending the University pay $1,200 less than Minnesota residents.

At the end of each year, Minnesota and Wisconsin compensate each other for the costs of the bargain. Last year, Wisconsin sent Minnesota a check for $6.5 million. This money goes into the state’s general fund because the agreement is between all public schools in the two states. The University of Minnesota, however, bears the brunt of the cost. Officials claim that the deal costs the University $6 million per year.

The University of Minnesota certainly has some weight to throw around in this argument. But this is really about state bookkeeping more than what Wisconsin students pay. The state of Wisconsin is paying compensation for the difference in tuition costs, but the money needs to end up in the right places. If the University is truly losing the most from this agreement the money should be rightfully reimbursed, not sent to the state’s general fund. Gov. Pawlenty has stated that he wants the reciprocity institution to remain in place. He has the power to start changing in-state policy.

We don’t need new negotiations with Wisconsin; we need the state of Minnesota to rectify the unjust cost being shouldered by the University. Reciprocity implies mutual benefit, but the University of Minnesota is not currently realizing its fair share of the deal.