On campus beat: U Morris costs look high - but why?

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 20, 2012 - 8:56 PM

It costs the University of Minnesota more to educate at students on its Morris campus than any other campus or college in the system.

Morris' cost of instruction -- $16,273 per student in 2009-10 -- was one nugget revealed by an unprecedented cost analysis released this month.

What does that mean?

Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson credits much of the figure to Morris' mission as a public liberal arts college, with smaller class sizes and faculty-mentored research. Plus, being a small, undergraduate-only campus in west-central Minnesota necessitates full-time faculty and precludes the help of graduate assistants. "We do not have a deep pool of adjunct or part-time faculty from which we can draw."

Johnson said some of the cost is due to the way the study split expenses among the U's missions of teaching, research and outreach. She emphasized that cost doesn't reflect price.

"It doesn't mean we're more expensive," she said. "It means we're spending the dollars we have more intensively on educating undergraduates."

Morris' per-student cost beat that of the Carlson School of Management, which imposes a tuition surcharge on undergraduates to help hire new faculty. I asked Johnson whether Morris, too, might consider such a charge.

"My first and really candid response is no; I would not like to see that happen," she said. A third of Morris' students are eligible for federal grants for low-income families, she said, and a third are the first generation in their families to attend college. "Many are not privileged in the sense of being able to afford a more expensive education."

Johnson will use the numbers to track how the campus can become more efficient. She suspects that even since 2009-10, Morris' per-student costs have decreased. One reason: Over time, the campus has adjusted its student-to-faculty ratio from 11-1 to 15-1 this past academic year.

"I'm anxious to see the model run again," Johnson said. "I like trends."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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