Tuesday, March 11, 2014

For the Record: Tuition isn't for bargaining (Minnesota Daily)

from the Minnesota Daily:

Tuition isn’t for bargaining

U administrators have offered alarming speculation about potential tuition hikes.
Minnesota Daily Editorial Board
March 11, 2014

Legislators questioned University of Minnesota administrators about the school’s request for state funding and its impact on tuition, the Minnesota Daily reported last week.

Members of the House Higher Education Committee asked how the University would respond if its $233 million request isn’t fully met. University President Eric Kaler vaguely said tuition would be affected, while University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter mentioned a 1 percent hike, not necessarily for undergraduates.

This rightfully alarmed some representatives and raised concerns that the University was backpedaling on its two-year in-state tuition freeze, which was a huge part of last year’s request.

“Mr. Pfutzenreuter, it was the University that began the discussion of freezing tuition on the undergraduate level,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona. “And one that the Legislature and the governor took extremely seriously.”

We took it seriously, too.

It might be difficult to predict the University’s financial situation in response to low state funding, but raising undergraduate, out-of-state tuition should be off the table. Kaler and Pfutzenreuter’s unwillingness to take a firm stance on this undermines the point of the freeze in the first place.

While we support the freeze wholeheartedly, tuition hikes are hitting graduate, professional and out-of-state undergraduate students as hard as ever. The University froze tuition in exchange for full state funding last year. That fact doesn’t invite outsized increases for other students, nor does it make leveraging graduate and professional student tuition a viable option for the University at the Capitol.

Ideally, students should represent a shared responsibility for both this institution and the Legislature. However, they can easily become a bargaining chip. Given the tuition increases that the University has discussed, we hope the conversation doesn’t continue in that direction.

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