Regents interview presidential finalist Joan Gabel

The Board of Regents also increased non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition and discussed systemwide enrollment.

Regent Steve Sviggum asks Provost Karen Hanson a question at the Board of Regents meeting on Friday, June 8, 2018 at McNamara Alumni Center.

Tony Saunders

Regent Steve Sviggum asks Provost Karen Hanson a question at the Board of Regents meeting on Friday, June 8, 2018 at McNamara Alumni Center.

by Helen Sabrowsky

At its December meeting, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents interviewed lone presidential finalist Joan Gabel, increased non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition, and reviewed a College of Science and Engineering surcharge. 

Regents interview presidential finalist

The full board interviewed Gabel Friday. Gabel participated in public forums on each of the University’s campuses this week after being named the sole presidential finalist last week.

“I have had the most wonderful experience criss-crossing the state, visiting every one of our campuses … every suspicion I had that things were pretty good around here is completely confirmed,” Gabel said at the meeting. 

Regents Tom Anderson and Linda Cohen both asked Gabel about her approach to leadership. Gabel described her leadership style as collaborative and expressed interest in the University’s shared governance, which allows contribution from faculty, staff and students. 

“You have to think of a greater good and be vulnerable to the fact that some people’s ideas might be better than your own and that has fundamentally informed my own leadership,” she said at the meeting.

Regent Dean Johnson asked how Gabel would address achievement gaps at the University.

Gabel said addressing achievement gaps is a challenge many universities experience. Gabel discussed the work the University of South Carolina — where she currently serves as provost — has done to address achievement gaps. She said the University of South Carolina first looked at how they could better serve current students and then extended that work to reach students in high school and middle school. 

Regents also asked Gabel about her experience working for a university with system campuses. She stressed the importance of highlighting the strengths and unique attributes of each campus as well as its geographical presence in its community. 

Regent Michael Hsu asked Gabel what her opinion was on student debt.

Gabel said it’s important the University addresses the issue of student debt and initiate conversation around pricing and access. 

“We really need to be thinking about clever ways to make sure students can afford education and I think it’s very clear that we are starting to inch up on what the market can bear, even for students who don’t have fiscal constraints,” she said at the meeting. 

She added that while there are methods being tested by other institutions, a best practice has not emerged and there is uncertainty.

The board will vote on her confirmation at a special meeting next Tuesday.

Non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition increase

The board voted to increase non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition by 10 percent starting next fall. Tuition for continuing students will increase by 5.5 percent.

The increase garnered criticism from some student representatives for the board and some regents, who called the increase unsustainable.

Increasing tuition 10 percent will move the University towards the middle of the Big Ten for tuition. 

Student representative to the board Jael Kerandi said she and other representatives collected 600 letters of feedback from the student body, some of which were shared with the regents. 

Kerandi criticized the tuition increase at the meeting and said it would negatively affect the University’s student diversity. She added that the rate the University’s tuition has increased in past years is unsustainable and leaves a “bad taste” in the mouths of parents and students who pay tuition. 

Additionally, she questioned why the board was increasing tuition, and said rank in the Big Ten tuition would not change perceptions of the University.

“Prices don’t change perception, people do,” Kerandi said at the meeting. 

Cohen said she would prefer a lower increase, and that the 10 percent hike implies the University doesn’t value perspectives from out-of-state students.

While Regent Ken Powell said he supports the increase, he did express concern over a decrease in out-of-state freshman enrollment.

“I do worry that we could create a [revenue] problem we didn’t fully anticipate,” he said at the meeting. 

This academic year, non-resident, non-reciprocity tuition increased 15 percent. The number of out-of-state freshman decreased 26 percent this fall.

Regent Darrin Rosha said he supports the 10 percent increase but not the 5.5 percent increase for continuing students. 

Mckenzie Dice, a student representative to the board, said as a non-resident, non-reciprocity student herself, she is concerned about the impact the increase will have on the student body.

“Take those students into account because ultimately the impact you have with this decision will be on those students and with a rise in tuition, I don’t think it would be a positive one,” she said at the meeting. 

Regent Chair David McMillan said he supports the tuition increase but that he does so “with trepidation.”

College of Science and Engineering surcharge

The board reviewed a proposed $1,000 per semester surcharge for new CSE students and new CLA students in CSE majors as interest in these programs continues to increase. The fee will not affect Pell-eligible and UPromise students. 

It would be an extension of a current surcharge in place for students in the Carlson School of Management. The surcharge aims to address the growth of CSE student enrollment, which has increased 25 percent in 10 years, and expand service teaching to students enrolled in other colleges. 

Undergraduate diversity and enrollment planning

The board also discussed undergraduate diversity and enrollment on the Twin Cities campus. The discussion was an update to a resolution passed last year that aims to narrow achievement gaps, increase outreach to students of color, and improve campus climate. 

The four-year graduation rate on the Twin Cities campus is around 70 percent. The four-year graduation gap between American Indian students and white students is 18.4 percent. Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Bob McMaster said this gap is too large. 

“That’s not acceptable. … It has been trending down … [but] it’s still significantly higher than we want,” he said at the meeting. 

Additionally, the four-year graduation gap between African American students and white students is 14.9 percent. 

Contract renewal

The board approved a one-year contract extension for P.J. Fleck, head coach of the Gophers football team, which will extend his contract through the 2024 season.