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Higher ed tuition on the rise as dark clouds loom

To no one’s surprise, tuition will rise this year at Minnesota’s 32 state universities and community and technical colleges.

The Board of Trustees for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system officially approved a budget including the increases this week.

The real question is what will happen next — after the one-time federal stimulus funds no longer are available to soften the blow on students, after Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s “unallotments” of funding for higher education kick in, after the state truly faces a massive budget imbalance that Pawlenty and the Legislature put off this year.

With those dark clouds looming on the horizon, here’s what students can expect for now: Beginning this fall, average tuition will increase by $114 at two-year colleges and $169 at state universities. That means full-time students at the 25 state colleges will pay an average tuition of $4,194 while students at the seven state universities will pay $5,791.

More students
The increases come at a time when droves of laid-off workers are going back to the MnSCU system for new skills and credentials. The system serves about 250,000 students per year in credit-based courses and an additional 140,000 students in non-credit courses.

Their tuition this fall would have been higher if not for the federal stimulus funds. The budget the trustees approved this week actually raises tuition by 5 percent. Students will see only a 2.8 percent increase at the state colleges and 3 percent at the state universities.

Some students actually could pay lower tuition after grants and other aid are factored in.

The “stimulus discounts” range from $131 per student at Metropolitan State University to $47 at Northwest Technical College in Bemidji.

Hoping economic recovery will boost future state revenues, legislators from both parties have said they could reconsider higher education funding cuts Pawlenty made when he balanced the budget unilaterally this year by “unallotment.” But many economists doubt the recovery will come quickly enough to make a substantial difference in the near future.

Meanwhile, the University of Minnesota also is raising tuition. And both of Minnesota’s systems of public higher education are eliminating hundreds of jobs and taking other cost cutting measures.  

“We worked hard to keep the tuition increase as low as possible,” MnSCU Board Chair David Olson said in a statement announcing the increases. “In the end, affordable tuition means more students can receive the education and training that Minnesota needs to remain competitive.”

Olson of Minnetonka was re-elected chair of the system’s Board of Trustees at the Wednesday meeting. He has been president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce since 1991.  Ruth Grendahl of Apple Valley was elected as MnSCU’s vice chair; and Scott Thiss of Edina was elected treasurer. They serve one-year terms beginning Aug. 1.

Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 07/24/2009 - 09:13 am.

    Does anyone know why tuition is being increased? Are they making up for funding cuts or is this inflation of some kind? To the extent that inflation plays a role- what costs are going up and why? And this $114, is that per credit, per year, per semester?

  2. Submitted by Josh Williams on 07/24/2009 - 11:02 am.

    “…after the state truly faces a massive budget imbalance that Pawlenty and the Legislature put off this year.”

    Wrong. While I understand the need to preserve a perception that reporting is non-partisan, I find the way the state’s current budget debacle is being presented. The Legislature, for all its faults, is not the guilty party. Numerous budget proposals were put forward, and the Legislature move toward Pawlenty’s position over the course of the session. This is what we call compromise, and it represented a good faith effort to resolve the budget impasse. By contrast, Pawlenty took a radical and rigid idealogical position, and his stance remained more or less unchanged from the start; by all appearances, he never had any intention of compromising.

    So, let’s all try to remember how we got in this situation. While I appreciate ‘balance’, I’m a bigger fan of ‘honesty’.

  3. Submitted by Nick Lemmer on 07/24/2009 - 01:03 pm.

    The $114 is an average yearly figure based on 30 credits (full-time), and equals a 2.8% average increase for 2-year schools.

    Interestingly, the NAICU a national org for private colleges announced this summer “Private College Tuition Rises at Lowest Rate in 37 Years.” That increase: 4.3%. Also of note, the 2008 consumer price index (inflation) rate was 3.8%.

    MN state colleges continue to be an excellent value and the right option for many.

  4. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/24/2009 - 02:59 pm.

    –Suggested constitutional amendment:

    Term limits for the office of governor (2 terms max)

    –Suggested federal action:

    Stateslike Minnesota and California whose governors have been largely responsibile for budget shortfalls because they are anti-tax zealots must restore progressive taxation before receiving federal funds for (pick a category that doesn’t hurt poor people).

  5. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/24/2009 - 03:58 pm.

    Something that is rarely openly and clearly discussed are the great differences in pensions. Government pension to its employees are very expensive. Primarily due to the fact that the employer i.e. government pays a larger percentage/contribution of the pension. Also of primary importance is that the government plans are “open ended (google that if you want. Of secondary importance is that as a group they tend to employ more females (longer lifespan) and that as a group these men and women have a longer more stable term of service which results in a older aged and larger pension.
    Until this difference is communicated and openly discussed and acted upon in some way our politic will continue to suffer this great divide of pro tax and anti tax folks. I’m not saying we need a benevolent dictator because he would be absolutely hated by 40% of the electorate but we have reached an impasse somewhat like the health bill (which will go through) but a bipartisan or even tripartisan commission could certainly be a start.

  6. Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 07/25/2009 - 11:05 am.

    Dan, you should know that the majority of employees hired in MnSCU end up in a defined contribution retirement plan (401a) rather than the “traditional” defined benefit plans that you are referring to. In fact, new hires for at least the last eight years are placed in the defined contribution plan unless they elect otherwise. One way the state attracts people to elect for the defined contribution plan is a generous match, but that is significantly less expensive than the traditional pension and it avoids the open-ended nature of the pension commitment. One can have a vigorous debate about whether this is a good or bad thing, but the notion that all state employees are covered by a generous traditional defined benefit pension isn’t accurate, especially for folks hired in the last decade.

  7. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/25/2009 - 06:07 pm.

    Thank you for your clarification I was mostly referring to a more general pension article from the Economist. I am curious as to the nature of the match is it the traditional 25 cents to the dollar ar is it 50 cents or dollar for dollar match. I know there is also some advantage to this new system as it is more portable should someone elect to teach elsewhere.
    One problame that I know is going on is the great divide between full professorships and adjunct professors who may be juggling 4 classes at two seperate institutions. The more transperancy we have the better and I think this should even employ into the private employment realm.

  8. Submitted by dan buechler on 07/26/2009 - 03:27 pm.

    Never Mind it is a dollar per dollar match which is 4-5 times what the average private employee gets. Also k now that some employees are recieving buyouts which ensure health coverage from age 56 to 65. A right/ perk that is worth at minimum $7000 to $70,000 dollars. Once again I am not saying that they are not deiserving of this but you have to balance that with waht students are having to pay and go in debt for. I am in favor of Pell grants. I am not one with the ready answers but too often the debate devolves to tax more (especially the rich) or no new taxes. > I am in neither camp so go ahead and turkey shoot me I am in the cross hairs. of both camps.
    Sorry for the typos but my delete button doesn’t work.

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