State’s college costs top national average

Sam Darcy

The cost of college for Minnesota students is rising faster than the national average, according to a report published Tuesday by the College Board.

The report showed the average tuition and fees for Minnesota public four-year colleges rose 8 percent, compared to a 6 percent increase at public four-year colleges nationally.

Tuition hikes during the last five years account for the highest increase in that time span in the three decades the College Board has released the reports.

The College Board is a nonprofit organization that administers the SAT exam, admission tests and advanced placement tests for high school students.

The rising costs of college put a burden on many current students, such as forest resources senior Patrick Nelson, who said debt is waiting for him after college.

“It will put a burden on me when I’m older,” he said. “It puts a lot of pressure on me to find a job right away after college.”

Nelson said he does not really understand why costs keep going up.

“I think it’s kind of dumb we have to keep paying more and more,” he said. “If it’s federal, then it’s out of the ‘U’s’ hands, but if they are hiking up tuition, it’s unfair.”

Craig Swan, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, said long-term costs like technology, library expenses and health care force tuition and fees to increase.

“What’s happening to health care costs is affecting any employer, public or private,” Swan said. “It isn’t that salaries have gone up that much but health care costs are a big factor for any employer.”

Swan also said in the past there has been a significant reduction in state funding for the University, which has affected tuition.

Peter Zetterberg, senior analyst in the Office of Institutional Research, said there was a $185 million reduction in state funding for the University in 2004-2005.

Zetterberg said the University proposed a 4.5 percent tuition increase for 2008-2009, less than each yearly increase over the last four years. Since 2002, in-state undergraduate tuition costs have gone up $2,843, a 49.7 percent increase.

Swan said the average estimated tuition and fees cost for a Minnesota resident at the University is $9,410 per year.

Swan said technology costs are difficult to avoid, but if health care and library costs dropped, tuition could level out.

“I do not want to create any false hope,” he said. “If some of these long-term cost drivers could be moderated, that would help with increases in tuition.”

But Swan said it does concern him to see the amount students have to borrow.

“We work very hard to try and control costs and moderate increases in tuition and we work very hard to see that students are getting strong value for the tuition that we have to charge,” he said.

Max Page, Minnesota Student Association president, said he wasn’t surprised to see students at Minnesota schools getting “the short end of the stick here.”

“It’s a travesty; at least three of my close friends have had to drop out of school for at least a semester,” he said.

Page said he feels there has been a lack of respect at the state level for higher education.

“When they decided to put a University here they didn’t say, ‘Well, we should have it here for some students who are able to pay a lot for it,’ ” he said. “This is here to make our state a better place and that vision seems to have been lost.”