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U of M tuition freeze for resident students is paying off

Almost one year into the freeze, the reality is that thousands of Minnesota undergraduate students are borrowing less, have lower indebtedness, and more time to pursue their studies instead of working.

Recently, a few individuals have expressed in Twin Cities media doubt about the impact of our recent two-year undergraduate tuition freeze for Minnesota resident students. But students are telling us they appreciate this important first step in ensuring greater access and affordability, which are important goals for the University of Minnesota.

Almost one year into the freeze, the reality is that thousands of Minnesota undergraduate students are borrowing less, have lower indebtedness, and more time to pursue their studies instead of working. The university did raise non-resident tuition this year, but our out-of-state tuition is the lowest in the Big Ten. And residence hall fees did increase by 3.9 percent this year, but they also remain among the very lowest in the Big Ten.

In addition, the university is educating more Minnesotans than ever. Consider:

  • The fall 2013 Twin Cities freshman class had 142 more Minnesota residents than the previous year (3,608 compared with 3,466). Systemwide that figure is up by 338 Minnesota freshmen.

  • In fact, the percentage of Minnesota residents in the Twin Cities freshman class has been extremely stable over the past decade at approximately 65 percent.

  • Systemwide, this year, there are 60 more Minnesota resident transfer students.

  • The systemwide total number of Minnesota resident undergraduate students is down due to our improved four-, five- and six-year graduation rates. Improved graduation rates mean that the number of degrees awarded to Minnesota undergraduates systemwide each year is up by 1,946 over the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, the university is extremely concerned about student debt, which is why President Eric Kaler made a tuition freeze among his highest priorities. The USNews website ranks our student debt at 68 among national universities and the average indebtedness of our undergraduates is very similar to that at our peer institutions.

Over the past decade, the U of M has implemented multiple programs that enable low-income students to come to campus with enough financial aid to significantly reduce tuition – or fully cover all tuition and fees for students with the lowest incomes. These programs include the President’s Emerging Scholars and University of Minnesota Promise program.

Finally, it is important to assess the “net price” of education (cost of attendance minus financial aid). The University of Minnesota campuses are among the lowest net price four-year institutions in Minnesota for students coming from families earning less than $75,000.

The university continues to focus on reducing the cost of education, maintaining access for Minnesota residents and improving efficiencies. But it’s critical to consider the whole picture when judging success. Doing otherwise is a disservice to students looking at the U of M, current students, and Minnesota families.

Robert B. McMaster is vice provost and dean of undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota.


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Comments (9)

"consider the whole picture" - indeed !!

It would take a vice provost or dean of the University to promote the idea that the University is the champion of lower education costs. Our history says otherwise.

I’m not saying the dean’s picture is entirely false – it’s not. It’s just that it is misleading in what it omits from the story.

Yes, increases have been held down somewhat in the last few years, and yes, there is a tuition freeze at the moment. That’s all well and good, but these are temporary phenomena which have taken place in repetitive cycles at the University of MN over the last 50 years.


This is a nice defense of the

This is a nice defense of the University's current policies on tuition rates and attendant modifiers. But it respects the original article that caused this response only by making an response at all.

The point of the Star Tribune op-ed piece by Robert Katz was that the U is compensating for the legislature-imposed tuition freeze by admitting more students from outside Minnesota than normally it would have, and increased those outsiders' tuition rates. Fewer Minnesotans than would be able to attend the U in normal circumstances (a freeze is not "normal") are being admitted. The bottom line is that the U had operating expenses that must be met, and if the legislature won't help meet those expenses, tuition from somewhere has got to pitch in. If not from Minnesotans, then from outsiders.

People of the state don't realize how much less the state legislature has been funding the University of Minnesota than was the case several generations ago. Tuition has gone up by leaps and bounds, as the taxpayers' representatives have appropriated less and less and less (down to less than 20% of the U's operating expenses) to fund it.

Point of order?

The U has the LOWEST out of state tuition in the Big Ten. We were essentially subsidizing out of staters - for debatable reasons - by in the state tuition rate.

Out of state tuition at the U - for undergrads - should be set no lower than the average value for out of state tuition for other Big Ten schools with the obvious exception of Northwestern.

Can anyone clarify

the discrepancy between what Dean McMaster claims in this article:

"The fall 2013 Twin Cities freshman class had 142 more Minnesota residents than the previous year"

and that in the paper cited by Dean McMaster:

U tuition deal: regrets all around

"Comparing this year’s undergraduate class with last year’s, we see that the U has admitted 400 fewer Minnesotans and has replaced them with 400 more out-of-state students."

It is very difficult for readers to evaluate such conflicting claims. It would have been useful for Dr. McMaster to clarify this matter if he thinks the data in the article he cited was mistaken.

Bill Gleason
U of M grad and retired faculty

Sorry, but here is the data

Wisconsin yearly publishes data for public schools of the Big Ten on resident and non-resident tuition and fees.

Minnesota ranks third in the Big Ten for in-state tuition behind only Michigan and Illinois.

The median tuition is $10,403 (Madison), the U is $13,555

For out of state tuition, Minnesota is lowest in the Big Ten checking in at $19,805.

The median BigTen tuition for out of state students is $28,794 (Purdue).
The average is $31,078 - if my arithmetic is correct.

As stated in an earlier comment, I think to be fair to in-state students and Minnesota taxpayers the U of M should be charging out of state tuition no lower than the average or at least median of public Big Ten institutions.

Another question

Setting aside for the moment the issue of declining state subsidies, transferring more of the cost to students, which is based on the assumption of the current expense level of higher education,...

...exactly how and why did education in general become, RELATIVE TO INCOMES, so much more expensive than years ago ?

According to the data supplied at, the annual in-state tuition rate in 1960 was $213, and in 2014, $12,060, 56 times as much (5,600% inflation). Does food, clothing, transportation, etc. cost 56 times as much as in 1960 ?? Not according to my memory. If not, why has the cost of higher education inflated to this degree, relative to other costs ??

Does a plumber, a dentist, a waitress, a mechanic, or a legislator make 56 times as much as in 1960 ?? It doesn't seem so.

According to Census Bureau data, the per capita income in Minnesota was...

in 1960 $ 2,141
in 2011 $ 44,672

This is roughly a 20-fold increase - but a far cry from a 56-fold increase, i.e., the rate of inflation of education costs at the U.

This has fueled many a dinner conversation, and I've never heard a satisfactory answer, although I've heard candidates: managment staff bloat, management salary bloat, professor salary increases, vain edifice complex building projects, and then there's the notion of easy-to-get loan money for the young for their college tuition and fees causing price inflation.

Anybody got the real answer(s) ?? Maybe this is what we should be talking about, rather than the U's claims of how hard it's working on containing costs. It would appear that the U of MN is part of the problem.

well, and I'm sorry but statistically...

145 students is a drop in the bucket when you have a student body of around 50,000. What's the normal variation over the last 20 years or so? How can you attribute these small numbers to the tuition freeze when the economy is also recovering?

And I know the state cut funding for the U. but I've also seen the administrative explosion and importation of corporate models that have decreased efficiency and increased costs. Actually, they should be lowering, not just freezing tuition for Minnesota students at the U. Regardless of how it compares to other Big Ten colleges the over-all policy for over a decade now has been to decrease accessibility for MN students, and that's simply wrong. This is a land-grant public university.

Mr. Udstrand -

"Actually, they should be lowering, not just freezing tuition for Minnesota students at the U"

Correct. And many of us have been questioning priorities and figures from the U for years. Often the response has been: "Our numbers good, your numbers bad."

You will enjoy this letter to the editor (Nov 17, 2013) in case you missed it, by a former interim president of the University of Minnesota:

Should’ve asked Kaler about efficiency efforts

I wish one more question had been asked in the interview with University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler (“U treads into unknown territory,” Nov. 10), namely, “What is the U doing to make real productivity gains in the cost of educating undergraduates?” While I applaud Kaler for freezing tuition, he is not reducing the real cost of educating each student but rather hoping to shift more of that cost back to the state. With real productivity gains, tuition could actually be reduced, not just frozen, assuming state funding for the U holds where it is at currently.

We expect most every other sector of our society and economy to use innovation to become more efficient. Many of them go out of business if they do not. As consumers of their product, we should expect no less of higher education.

RICHARD J. SAUER, Blue Springs, Mo.

Former Interim University of Minnesota President
Asks an Obvious Question
“What is the U doing to make real productivity
gains in the cost of educating undergraduates?”

Yes, and if I'm not mistaken...

Kaler came in announcing that reducing administrative costs was a "top" priority. As far as I know he hasn't even bothered to properly identify what is and isn't an "administrative" cost. In the last budget analysis he said he was still working on figuring that out... or rather, had someone else working on it. Apparently he doesn't personally work on his own priorities. These "executives" just kill me, they announce priorities and then go to luncheons.

Meanwhile, apparently the cost of having a bunch of people sitting around watching another person talk has risen by what? 400% over the last three decades? No one EVER explains how that works aside from complaining about state budget cuts but state budget cuts haven't been -400%. It' weird because on the face of it the administration looks like it should be more efficient. You register for classes online, submit your papers online, submit and distribute grades online, transcripts are all online, whole buildings that used to be devoted just to registration are now re-tasked. I know that means you need an IT infrastructure but if that's actually MORE expensive, go back to the old way? Are grease boards really that much more expensive than the old black boards?