Students are gathering at the state Capitol today to participate in the Rally to Restore Affordability, a show of their support for increased state funding of higher education. While we applaud this effort, affordability also depends on the University of MinnesotaâÄôs willingness to stop the wasteful spending that has been driving up tuition costs.
The University has done a terrible job of controlling nonacademic costs recently. Between 2003 and 2007, the University increased spending on instruction by 17.9 percent and on administration by 28.5 percent. It also increased tuition 29.2 percent, the largest increase among state universities.
During that period, the Board of Regents also approved every construction project, real estate transaction and purchasing contract brought before it. Exactly one of those votes was not unanimous. Furthermore, many purchases were made through an “emergency approval” process in which only three regents are required to vote.
The board continuously approved annual tuition increases well above inflation rates and a new “Student Capital Enhancement Fee” that will rise every semester.
With the average Minnesota student graduating with $26,000 in debt, the affordability of higher education is a major concern. The regents and the University administration have been irresponsible in pushing the burden onto students instead of making nonacademic spending cuts.
While we still encourage students to support increased state funding, itâÄôs important that the University accepts its share of the responsibility and works to restore affordability.