Regents hear Yudof’s tuition hike proposal

Kristin Gustafson

University President Mark Yudof told students they needed to share the burden of rising University costs, including their professors’ pay.
As expected, Yudof went before the Board of Regents with his plan to increase tuition by 5.5 percent to cover a portion of a faculty pay raise.
Few in the room were happy about the decision, which would add $125 per semester for full-time students.
“This is not good news, and I hate it,” Yudof said as he presented next year’s annual $1.6 billion operating budget, which included the tuition hike, for board review. The budget funds faculty and staff salaries, academic initiatives, technology enhancements and facilities.
Board policy requires that tuition “reflect the shared responsibility, benefits and needs of the state and of the individual student.”
Regent David Metzen said he supported the measure, but only as a “one-time deal.”
He does not want the University to come back to students next year for the same increase, making it 11 percent in two years, he said.
“We can’t go back to this source next year … it’d be a tough sell.”
The Legislature must listen to the University’s needs, which include costs rising above the rate of inflation and faculty salaries ranking so low the University is losing top staff, Metzen said.
Regent Michael O’Keefe, who also serves as Gov. Jesse Ventura’s Human Services commissioner, said he doesn’t think the Legislature understands University investments as a top statewide priority.
However, he also said students who pay the tuition increase will benefit directly because their degrees will have more value when graduating.
Several regents voiced concern about the increasing burden of school costs, despite recent state and federal financial-aid increases.
Regents Chairwoman Patricia Spence said she was concerned about the burden of loans on students. Nationally, loans take up a greater portion of financial aid for students than grants. “Not all careers that require a college education pay that well,” she said.
Heidi Frederickson, regents student representatives president, said students do not like the tuition increase but understand it is necessary.
However, she suggested students lobby next year to win more state support. “There is power in numbers.”
But lobbying efforts might fall on deaf ears of lawmakers who lean toward tax breaks rather than University funding.
For the past 20 years, the national and state trend for the higher education price puzzle was based on a higher tuition-higher aid model, said Peter Zetterberg, universal institution research and reporting director.
University students today pay significantly more in tuition than their predecessors of 10 to 20 years ago. But the student economic profile is not significantly different.
As long as students can find enough aid to attend college, legislators may choose other priorities for state money, Zetterberg said.
“If I were a student, thinking of my best interest, I’d probably lobby for lower tuition,” he said. “But that is not necessarily what is best for the University or for all students.”
The board will hold a public forum on the University budget, which includes the tuition increase proposal, on April 28. Contact the board office for more information.

Kristin Gustafson covers the University administration and federal government and welcomes comments at [email protected]