While I appreciate the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s attention to the very important issue of nonresident college tuition (“Don’t weaken U’s role in drawing talent,” Dec. 22), readers would benefit from a closer examination of all the facts.

Foremost, tuition for Minnesota residents attending the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities is too high. High school seniors from Chisago Lakes, North Branch or St. Paul Central have to pay 32 percent more to become a Gopher than a Wisconsin high schooler currently pays to become a Badger and 70 percent more than an Iowa student pays to become a Hawkeye.

With student debt by all Minnesota college students fifth-highest in the country, this problem cannot continue to be ignored by U leadership and needs to be fixed immediately. There is absolutely no reason to minimize the value of a University of Minnesota degree and penalize in-state students by charging nonresidents $8,000 less than the Big Ten average.

Second, tuition rates charged to nonresidents are at the absolute bottom of the Big Ten. I appreciate university President Eric Kaler responding to the feedback from me and from other legislators who believe this to be an opportunity for improvement. Each year, there’s a waiting list of qualified Minnesota students who are turned away — let’s help those kids instead of worrying about kids from other states.

By moving tuition to the middle of the Big Ten for out-of-state students, we can use these resources to ensure a better deal for Minnesota residents, lower their student debt and put a quality University of Minnesota education in reach for potentially thousands of middle- and lower-income Minnesota families.

Minnesotans support the U with their hard-earned tax dollars each year and should receive the best possible deal when they send their students to our flagship institution of higher learning.

Raising out-of-state tuition could reduce resident tuition by more than $3,000 per year. What a great thing this would be for the Minnesota students and families, and what a positive message it would send to other universities across the country about how U leadership is putting their students first.

Too many news articles from this year have portrayed the University of Minnesota in a bad light. Reducing resident tuition is not only right but would give the U the positivity it needs right now.

Now, to address specifically some of the points made by the Editorial Board:

The editorial stated that “the share of undergrads from Minnesota” has not diminished with the recent increase in nonresidents. According to U documents, resident undergraduate enrollment has declined at the Twin Cities campus even though there is a waiting list of Minnesota high school seniors. In fact, even though taxpayers from every county in Minnesota contribute their tax dollars to the U, enrollment of students in well more than half of the counties has declined at the Twin Cities campus. The U should be an institution that focuses on being a destination school for Minnesota students first, rather than catering to students from out of state.

The Editorial Board also voiced concern about a future labor shortage in Minnesota, which it feels would be worsened by raising nonresident tuition to the midpoint of the Big Ten. A closer look at the facts shows that labor studies are actually projecting a glut of college-educated workers (http://tinyurl.com/z8moohk). Minnesota’s projected labor shortage is in jobs requiring a high school degree or less. Instead of concentrating on nonresidents to fill a job void, our colleges should be doing more to graduate students in majors that are marketable, and working to keep them here in Minnesota after graduation.

It’s been my experience that some solutions proposed by government leaders are very elaborate and too complex. This one is very simple. The University of Minnesota should bring both resident and nonresident tuition to the midpoint of the Big Ten by lowering tuition for in-state residents and raising it for out-of-state residents. It’s the reasonable thing to do.


Bob Barrett, R-Taylors Falls, is a member of the Minnesota House.