University of Minnesota leaders are backing away from a May proposal to hike out-of-state tuition by nearly 10 percent. Instead, President Eric Kaler is recommending a 7.5 percent increase for nonresidents on the Twin Cities campus.
Kaler, who started the year considering a 15 percent hike for nonresidents, said he has progressively scaled it down in the face of pushback from students and others, including members of the Board of Regents.
But he is sticking by his recommendation to raise undergraduate tuition for Minnesota residents by 2.5 percent, or $306, to $12,546 a year.
The Board of Regents is to vote on the fall tuition rates at its meeting Friday.
Kaler said he’s been trying to strike a balance between those who argue that the U can afford to raise its nonresident sticker price and those who fear a dramatic jump will scare off new prospects. The current rate, $20,660, is the lowest in the Big Ten, and the regents set a goal in April of moving to the middle range — about $35,000 — by 2021.
But last month, when Kaler proposed a $2,040 increase (9.9 percent) for the next school year, there was a backlash from those who felt he went too far. “I would say a majority of the board, many members of the board, were uncomfortable with that,” Kaler said. His latest proposal would raise the nonresident rate by $1,550, or 7.5 percent.
On Thursday, though, Regent Michael Hsu said he was troubled by the change of direction. “My concern is that we’re not making progress in terms of our goal to get to the midpoint in the Big Ten,” he said.
Several lawmakers have been pushing the U for years to raise its nonresident rates, arguing that Minnesota taxpayers are subsidizing out-of-state students at the expense of their own students.
Kaler and others, though, have cautioned that double-digit increases could hurt the university’s efforts to recruit students from around the country. “Nobody really disagrees with the [idea] that we should be closer to the midpoint of the Big Ten,” Kaler said. “The question is, over what period of time do we get there?”
Meanwhile, a coalition of student groups is mounting a protest against the proposed tuition hikes. Joanna Nuñez, a graduate student in feminist studies, said the coalition is asking students, staff, faculty and community members to show up “en masse” at Friday’s regents meeting. “There are students that are coming out of this university with a ton of debt,” she said. “We really hope to send a message to the board that this is not acceptable.”
U officials note that they have proposed freezing tuition rates for Minnesota residents at four of their campuses, Crookston, Duluth, Morris and Rochester. The 2.5 percent increase would apply only to the Twin Cities campus.
At the same time, they say students from Minnesota families with incomes up to $120,000 would pay no more than last year, because a university scholarship program will cover the difference.