University of Minnesota regents approved higher tuition rates Friday, just hours after their meeting was disrupted by protesters opposing the increases.
Tuition will rise 2.5 percent for Minnesota residents, and 7.5 percent for nonresidents, on the Twin Cities campus this fall.
Some two dozen protesters took over the meeting shortly after it began around 9 a.m., chanting and holding banners demanding free tuition and the resignation of President Eric Kaler. Six people were arrested and led out in handcuffs after they refused a police order to leave the regents’ chamber. The six were cited for unlawful assembly and released, a U spokesman said.
The protest, which lasted about half an hour, may have delayed the vote, but it had little impact on the outcome.
The Board of Regents endorsed the new tuition rates as part of the 2016-17 school year budget.
As a result, the sticker price for undergraduate Minnesota residents will rise $306, to $12,546 a year on the Twin Cities campus. But Kaler noted that most of those students will feel little, if any, impact, because of increases in financial aid for state residents. In addition, the undergraduate rates will be frozen at the U’s other four campuses in Crookston, Duluth, Morris and Rochester.
The net effect, he said, is that 20,000 Minnesota students will be spared any hike in tuition this fall.
“I think we have struck a good balance between access and affordability,” Kaler said.
The biggest increases were reserved for students from states without reciprocity agreements in Minnesota. For newcomers, tuition will rise $1,550, to $22,210. Kaler had originally proposed a $2,040 increase for nonresidents, but scaled it back because of concerns it might hurt recruitment. For returning students, tuition hikes will be capped at 5.5 percent.
Most graduate and professional school programs will see an average increase of 2.5 percent.
Kaler said the tuition hikes were necessary, in part, because of rising costs and because the Legislature approved no additional funds for the U next year.
The regents voted down a proposal by Regent Michael Hsu to cut in-state tuition by $200 a year, citing concerns that the loss of funds would result in damaging cutbacks to programs.
The protesters, from a coalition of student groups, argued that the tuition hike amounted to a betrayal of low-income and minority students. Before they were ejected from the meeting, they issued a list of grievances and demands, including “free education for everyone.”
Kaler said he was disappointed in the protesters’ accusations, saying that the U works hard to address the concerns of low-income and minority students. He noted that only the wealthiest Minnesota students — from families making $120,000 or more — will end up paying higher tuition this fall under the plan approved Friday. The rest will be eligible for financial aid or scholarships to cover the increase.
“It seems to me that in that [upper] income level, you can afford another $306 to come to the University of Minnesota,” he said. “For low-income students, the University of Minnesota is remarkably affordable.”