Friday, June 22, 2007

Tuition Reciprocity
The view from this side of the St. Croix

Mr. B. has posted earlier today on the apparent resolution of the tuition reciprocity debacle. The Pioneer Press has a little more detail and analysis of the situation in an article recently posted. They seem to be more on the ball about these things than some of their competition, e.g. the Daily or the Strib. There may be some excuse for this at the Strib where terrible hits have recently taken place in the newsroom...

Deal reached to settle Minnesota, Wisconsin tuition dispute
Pioneer Press

Article Last Updated: 06/22/2007 01:54:12 PM CDT

Minnesota and Wisconsin students hoping to cross the border for college can breathe a little easier. Officials said today they reached a deal to renew a long-standing tuition pact that helps keep college affordable in both states.

For students, the new agreement's effect should be negligible. They'll continue to pay the same price they would for a comparable public college in their home state.

Most of the change is behind the scenes as the two states rework the way the compensate each other. Wisconsin, for instance, paid Minnesota a total of more than $20 million over the past three years to close the tuition gap for Wisconsin students studying here. That money, however, went to Minnesota's general fund, not to the schools.

Under the new deal, the money paid by Wisconsin will start flowing to the colleges as a "tuition reciprocity supplement," starting with freshmen entering in fall 2008.

"To the student, it'll appear like the same arrangement," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said today on his weekly radio show.

The deal still needs official approval from both states, but it appears the agreement will keep the 40-year-old tuition pact intact.

It had been in danger of falling apart. Minnesotans had faced rapid tuition hikes for the U the past few years but the pact insulated Wisconsin students from those jumps. The result: the U campuses became $1,200 to $2,700 a year cheaper for Wisconsin undergraduates than for Minnesotans.

Earlier this year, the U had threatened to leave the pact, and U regents had a vote scheduled on it for Wednesday.

The idea the U might pull out led to worries the two states could abandon the neighborly agreement and start charging each other's students at the much higher non-resident tuition rate and causing public college costs to skyrocket.

The new deal, though, solves three basic issues:

Minnesotans and Wisconsinites will be charged the same tuition at the U - something U leaders insisted was only fair.

Wisconsinites will still pay less, thanks to their home state's subsidy. Wisconsin negotiators said their primary goal was to keep tuition affordable for their students.

Those Wisconsin payments will go to the colleges, not to Minnesota's general fund, so Minnesota schools won't lose money on their Badger State students.

"The amount of money that we're sending now will just be divided differently and sent to different places," said Connie Hutchison with the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board.

The deal has the backing of U President Robert Bruininks. A U spokesman said the regents were prepared to postpone Wednesday's vote to leave the pact.

Perhaps the biggest loser in the new agreement is Minnesota's general fund. As the tuition gaps between the two states close and money starts going to the schools, Wisconsin's obligation to the general fund will ebb. By 2012, Minnesota will be paying Wisconsin, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

Fortunately, the governors stepped in and brought this fiasco to a halt. Obviously, this was beyond the capability of OurLeader to deal with other than by threatening to pull the plug.

One happy Bonzo