In “U tuition deal: regrets all around” (April 1), Robert Katz questioned the benefit of the current University of Minnesota tuition freeze, calling it a “bad deal for students.” As the U’s student-body president, I strongly disagree.
Minnesota’s colleges and universities have faced drastic reductions in state funding to higher education since the 1990s, and students have faced tuition increases as a result. Despite decreased state support, the University of Minnesota kept its programs competitive in order to attract talented students, continued to provide a world-class education and offered strong support to help us graduate in less time.
Unfortunately, the drop in state funding has forced students and families to bear the additional financial burden. This cycle has created the situation we find ourselves in today — high tuition and high debt.
However, Minnesota finally made progress toward reversing the cycle last year. The U and the state partnered to freeze tuition by directing state funds to a two-year tuition freeze for resident undergraduates. For the first time in more than a decade, tuition didn’t increase. This was undoubtedly a step in the right direction. While it doesn’t reverse two decades of tuition increases, Katz is wrong to characterize a great first step as a “bad deal.”
Like many of my peers, I struggle to pay for my education. My parents own a small business in rural Minnesota, and with four kids, they can’t afford to help pay for college. For me, the savings from the tuition freeze are very real, and the savings mean I’ll be able to pay my rent next month. I’m extremely appreciative of the efforts made by the state to make college more affordable for students like me.
U students played a major role in advocating for the tuition freeze because it’s a step in the right direction. We look to President Eric Kaler to continue his focus on eliminating inefficiencies at the U, and to the Minnesota Legislature to continue investing in us, the students and future leaders, who are a good deal.
Mike Schmit is student-body president at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus.