Undergraduate tuition will rise to $13,058 for Minnesota residents at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus this fall.
The new rate, an increase of $258, or 2 percent, was approved Friday by a divided Board of Regents. Four of the 12 members voted against the increase.
“The cost of tuition has been a major concern of mine,” said Randy Simonson, one of the dissenters, who joined the board in May.
Others defended the increase as smaller than the rate of inflation.
“We’re talking about a $5 per week increase, offset by scholarships and other aid,” said Regent Dean Johnson. “I wish we didn’t have to raise tuition at the university, but I think it’s a good investment.”
The plan approved Friday includes a freeze on undergraduate tuition at three campuses, in Crookston, Duluth and Rochester, and a 1 percent increase at the Morris campus. U officials say they have slowed down the rate of tuition increases dramatically in recent years after college costs soared.
But in the face of growing resistance to tuition hikes, the board voted Friday to impose extra scrutiny on hiring decisions in an effort to control costs. The plan would require approval of the provost and a senior vice president before filling vacancies in jobs funded entirely by tuition or state tax dollars — about a third of the university’s permanent, full-time positions, officials say.
Regent Steven Sviggum, who proposed the change, said he wanted a way to ensure that new hires in those categories are justified.
“To bend the cost of tuition, we have to address costs first,” he said.
He noted that the U, which has about 26,000 employees statewide, added some 500 new positions last year, although many are funded by outside grants. This plan, he said, would “put in an additional level of review.”
President Eric Kaler said he supported the new rule. “It’s a growing head count that we’re wanting to control better,” he said.
Before Friday’s vote, several regents floated alternatives to Kaler’s tuition plan in hopes of heading off the recommended increases. Simonson proposed cutting in-state tuition rates by 1 percent across the board, which he said would cost the university about $9 million.
“Out of a $4 billion budget, I can’t help but think the administration can find that room,” he said.
His proposal was voted down Thursday after a heated debate at a regents committee meeting. A separate proposal, to freeze tuition at all five campuses, was voted down in May.
Ken Powell, another regent, urged the board to limit tuition increases to 1 percent. “I just don’t think 2 percent is a sustainable kind of rate of increase,” he said.
That proposal, too, was rejected, with other regents citing concerns about the financial impact on the university.
“Every choice has a consequence,” said Sviggum. “I’m somewhat concerned about not knowing where the dollars are coming from.”
On Friday, Powell and Simonson were joined by regents Michael Hsu and Darrin Rosha in voting against the president’s budget, which included the new tuition rates.
In all, the board approved a $3.8 billion budget for the 2018-2019 school year, including a 2 percent salary increase for employees. Room and board rates are slated to grow by 1 to 3 percent on various campuses. Student fees also will go up, by 1 to 4 percent, on all but the Rochester campus.
The tuition rate for nonresident undergraduates was approved by the board last fall and is to rise by 15 percent to $28,736 on the Twin Cities campus. Several board members have pushed for higher nonresident rates in order to ease costs for Minnesota residents.