Students at the seven Minnesota State universities would face a 3.9 percent, or $272, increase in tuition this fall, under a proposed budget released Friday.
At the same time, average tuition at the state's two-year colleges would rise by 1 percent, or $48 a year, to $4,815 a year. It would be the first time the rate has increased in five years.
At the four-year universities, the new average tuition would be $7,288 a year.
The proposal, which was posted on the system's website Friday, describes the new rates as "modest but necessary tuition increases."
The proposal would, in effect, return tuition at the two-year colleges to the same rate that was in effect in the 2012-13 school year. That rate was frozen by state law until last year, when the Legislature mandated a 1 percent tuition cut.
In practice, though, many students will feel little effect of the tuition hikes because of increases in financial aid, said Laura King, the vice chancellor of finance. About a third of Minnesota State students receive federal or state grants that would cover most, if not all, of the extra costs, she said.
Last fall, Minnesota State officials had offered to freeze tuition for all students until 2019 if state lawmakers approved a $178 million increase for the system's colleges and universities. But the state appropriation, approved in May, fell short. It authorized a $106 million increase over the next two years, about 60 percent of the request.
Faical Rayani, 22, a student leader at Minnesota State University, Mankato, said he's disappointed that the Legislature refused to fund a tuition freeze. "I would have liked to have done a better job lobbying; clearly it wasn't enough," said Rayani, who is incoming state chair of Students United, the student association for all seven state universities.
While some may think a $272 increase is relatively modest, he said, "it's a pretty big burden for students. People don't realize that a lot of students here are working three jobs. … They're paying for tuition out of the sweat of their own brow." For some, he said, it may mean going deeper in debt. "That's your food for a month. That's maybe half of your rent."
Eventually, he worries, "our state schools are going to be just as unaffordable as a private school."
The Legislature placed a 1 percent cap on tuition increases at the two-year public colleges this fall. While there was no similar limit on the four-year colleges, the entire system is required to freeze tuition in the 2018-19 school year.
The Board of Trustees will vote on the proposal next Wednesday.
Separately, the University of Minnesota is proposing a $376, or 3 percent, increase, which would boost tuition to $12,992 for state residents on the Twin Cities campus. Nonresident tuition would rise 10 percent to $24,432. The U's Board of Regents will vote on the plan Tuesday.