The University of Minnesota Board of Regents approved a resident tuition increase as part of University President Eric Kaler's fiscal year 2019 operational budget, despite objections from several regents.
At the June 7 and 8 board meeting, the budget was approved with by an 8-4 vote. The approval means a 2 percent increase in resident tuition at the Twin Cities campus and an 1 percent increase in resident tuition at the Morris campus. The board also approved a 15 percent tuition increase in December for non-resident students at the Twin Cities campus to better align with tuition rates at other Big Ten schools. The Crookston, Duluth and Rochester tuition rates are staying flat.
Regent Randy Simonson, who opposed the tuition increase, proposed an amendment to lower resident tuition by 1 percent at the meeting. The amendment was not passed.
Chair of the Student Representatives to the Board of Regents Joshua Preston said he did not support the tuition increases and was glad Simonson proposed the amendment.
“[Simonson] was trying to start a conversation that students have tried to start before, which hasn’t really gained traction at the regent level. [The tuition decrease] is often characterized as unattainable and unrealistic,” Preston said.
Resident undergraduate tuition at the Twin Cities campus was around $12,800 without fees for the 2017-2018 academic year, which will increase by $258 with fees this coming academic year. Some of the revenue is planned to go toward increases in faculty salaries.
Since the 2000-2001 academic year, resident tuition on the Twin Cities has more than doubled, according to University data. Resident tuition on the Twin Cities campus was just over $4,800 in 2000-2001 academic year.
Some regents supported the tuition increase because they say it will University funding.
“For the University to have the resources to invest back to students and to faculty, we do need to increase tuition at some modest level,” said Regent Richard Beeson.
Beeson said tuition increases on the Twin Cities campus are partly due to supply, as well as competitive acceptance rates of certain colleges within the University.
Regent Dean Johnson also expressed support for the increase. “One of the major responsibilities of a regent …is to pass the budget. We have to balance the interests of the University [and] interests in research and the delivery of quality education,” Johnson said.
However some on the board, like Regent Michael Hsu, voted against the measure. He said funds raised by the tuition increases can be obtained in other ways, such as from the University's central reserves fund.
“I was disappointed that [Simonson’s] one percent decrease didn’t pass ... There isn’t a pressing need right now to increase tuition. I believe we should actually be working to reduce tuition,” Hsu said.
Regent Darrin Rosha said current tuition is more expensive than it was in the 1990s when he previously served on the board. He said that even when inflation is taken into account, the current tuition should only be a fraction of what it is today.
“The education that we provide to our students is a public good," Rosha said. “When you do that you start to move the entire University enterprise away from [being] a public good that is supported by the state and federal governments.”
When passing the budget, the board also voted to approve the first year of the law school's $1.7 million funding request. The law school asked for three years of funding to offset a decrease in enrollment and maintain its national rank. In 2019, the board will decide if additional funding is necessary.
"We are grateful for the increase in the law school’s level of base support for fiscal year 2019 and look forward to continuing to work with the board and the [University Finance] office as we implement our three-year fiscal plan and keep them informed of our progress,” said Law School Dean Garry Jenkins in an emailed statement to the Minnesota Daily.
Preston, who is a law school student, said he wished the school received the full funding request but understands why the regents only approved the first year.
“If I was a regent, [I] would be very wary of continuing to make the investment, but I have a lot of confidence in Dean Jenkins ... I think he’s already done a lot to try to bring the law school on firmer financial footing,” Preston said.