Thursday, February 10, 2011

(U of M president to wear tuition cap?) 

Bill to freeze tuition gets cold shoulder

from University of Minnesota and MnSCU 


From the Star-Tribune

The U and MnSCU say the bill is bad policy and will erode the quality of the education they provide.

A few state senators want to freeze tuition at Minnesota's public colleges and universities -- then limit tuition increases forever.

Few? This may be wishful thinking.
Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, introduced a bill Wednesday that would freeze tuition for two years at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and University of Minnesota and keep all future increases below the annual percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index.

While the bill could affect MnSCU schools, the U has a separate constitutional status and would not have to comply.

As a practical matter, the U would  have to comply. If they want to get legal, maybe that should be fixed as has been done in other states.

The bill would force the two public higher ed systems "to make true structural reform to push revenue into the classrooms and reduce administrative overhead," Carlson said in a statement. It has the support of Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, chair of the Senate's higher education committee.

The two state education systems oppose the bill -- not because they don't want to keep tuition low. They do, they said. But they said a freeze would tie their hands in dealing with another round of potentially deep cuts to state funding, diminishing the quality of education they provide.

They want to keep tuition low?  So why didn't they when they had the opportunity to do so. The U has espoused a high tuition/high aid model that was a serious mistake.

U President Robert Bruininks called it "a very bad bill" that could force the university to eliminate programs, reduce enrollment and cut need-based aid.

This is an unfortunate reaction because it sounds like a threat - we will take it out on the students.  Stupid thing to say.

"It looks like this is an attempt to make college more affordable," he said by phone, "but it would leave us no alternative but to erode the resources we provide now for low- and middle-class students." The U has made significant cuts to deal with falling state funding, he said, but "it is reasonable for tuition to be part of the solution."

The financing at the U is deliberately inscrutable and there is no easy way to tell whether tuition increases actually go to the education of students. They may very well continue the entrenchment of administrators or subsidize research under the table.  These matters have been discussed often on this blog.  And yet Dr. Paller responded very recently to the fact that NIH funding may go down by stating that the U should hire more (research ?) faculty. The cluelessness of the current administration at the U is breathtaking.  Let us hope for serious changes under the new president. 

MnSCU voiced similar concerns.

"The Legislature gave the board the authority to set tuition in the first place because the trustees can look at the whole picture," said spokeswoman Melinda Voss. "They can balance the interests of the students and the state's need to prepare more graduates and all the things the board has to take into consideration."

The Minnesota State College Student Association does not support a tuition freeze. But it does support the Legislature setting a cap on tuition.

In fact, hours before the tuition freeze bill gets its first hearing Feb. 16, students will rally at the Capitol, wearing red hats that say "S.T.O.P" -- student tuition is overpriced.

Make sure that President Bruininks gets one of these hats...
"Tuition caps," if you will

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