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U's tuition expected to surpass 10-grand

  • Article by: JEFF SHELMAN
  • Star Tribune
  • February 8, 2008 - 11:24 PM

Most University of Minnesota students will almost certainly face a pricetag of more than $10,000 for the first time next fall.

"I don't see any possibility that we can roll it back," University President Robert Bruininks said after a presentation to the school's regents Friday.

The projected increases -- which are taking place in part because of lower-than-hoped-for state appropriations -- would take annual tuition and fees for Minnesota residents into five figures.

While tuition increases won't be announced until April, the university is projecting an increase of 7.5 percent for Minnesota families making more than $150,000 per year and 5.5 percent for families making less than $150,000.

Those students currently pay $9,882 and $9,661 respectively.

Students on the U campus Friday night weren't surprised to hear that their bills would likely rise next year.

"Compared to what our parents paid for school, it's ridiculous," said Anthony West, a freshman from Mahtomedi who plans to major in biomedical engineering. "I pretty much assumed it was going to go up."

So did David Holt, a sophomore from White Bear Lake, who also is a biomedical engineering major.

"I couldn't see a better option. Yes, tuition is spiking here, but it feels like it's spiking everywhere," Holt said.

The tuition plans would continue a trend of significant tuition increases. As recently as 1995, in-state tuition and fees at the Twin Cities campus were less than $5,000, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. In 2003, they were just more than $7,000.

While the university has greatly expanded its aid to low-income students, more undergraduates are leaving school with significant debt. In his presentation Friday to the Board of Regents, Bruininks said that 60.5 percent of students graduating in four years get loans to pay for their education and the average debt is about $20,500.

West said staying ahead of the bills -- and out of debt -- is a constant battle.

"I'm pretty much paying my own way," West, the freshman, said. "I've taken around $10,000 in loans, but I got a lot of it paid off the first semester. I work about 25 hours a week, and I'm taking a full load."

University officials largely attribute the tuition increases to cuts in higher education funding from the Legislature. State appropriations used to dwarf the amount of revenue generated from tuition. For the 2007-08 school year, the university will receive $648 million from the state while generating $552 million in tuition.

"I don't think we're getting a fair cut from the state government," Regent Anthony Baraga said.

Bruininks -- who dealt with state budget cuts during his first year as president five years ago -- would like to reach a point where tuition hikes were steady and in the ballpark of the rate of inflation.

"We can't be on a rollercoaster at Valleyfair every year," he said.

Of 10 schools the university considers its peers, Minnesota has higher resident tuition than Wisconsin, Ohio State, UCLA, California-Berkeley, Florida, Texas and Washington. Only Penn State, Michigan and Illinois have higher price tags.

Wisconsin's resident tuition is currently more than $2,400 cheaper than Minnesota. Iowa residents pay about $3,300 less at the University of Iowa than Minnesotans do at the university.

Bruininks said one of the biggest differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin is that Wisconsin benefits from having more nonresident students who pay higher tuition.

"It's natural for people to look across the fences," Bruininks said.

In other action Friday, the regents approved the appointment of new law school dean David Wippman.

Wippman, an Edina native, is currently the vice provost for international relations and a law professor at Cornell University. He also served in the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

Jeff Shelman • 612-673-7478

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