Friday, March 19, 2010

Tuition blues

Tuition has increased over 150% in nominal terms over the last decade at the Twin Cities Campus, far outstripping inflation. Most recently, undergraduate tuition increased in 2009 by $720 or 7.3%. In 2010, tuition is projected to increase again by roughly $780 or 7.5%. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the federal stimulus package, will pay for part of that increase, so tuition provisionally increases by about half that much, or $300 and $450, respectively. In 2011, the hammer will drop and students will pay the full $1500 increase of the tuition hikes. The Daily has pointed out the deliberate obfuscation of the administration on tuition increases: “President Robert Bruininks is quoted as saying, "Student tuition increases will not exceed 3 percent this year and not exceed 4.5 percent next year." But these numbers hide their temporary nature. In fact, tuition increased by more than 7% this year and is projected to increase by 7.5% next year. The Daily Editorial Board is not calling President Bruininks a liar, but he is definitely not telling the whole truth.”

Tuition increases during this period cannot be explained fully by cuts in state funding to the University. (See pages 3 and 4 of the admin's March 12 presentation to the regents: The state allocation for 2010, $623.4 million dollars, is about the same as the state allocation in 2007, $620 million. Granted, $620 million in 2010 is worth less than $620 million in 2007. But inflation has been low, and in the interim, there have been salary freezes and a hiring pause. Why the need for yet another brutal round of tuition increases for our students? Balancing the budget on the backs of our students is unsustainable. Raising scholarships to cover the costs of higher tuition is a band-aid that does not deal with the fundamental problem of exorbitant increases in tuition. Some rethinking is in order.

1 comment:

  1. Lack of transparency in the universities spending makes this a difficult problem to address.

    I have had a difficult time finding out what the cost of an undergrad for one year actually is. One clue is the claim that the bargain basement rates being charged for out of state tuition. Supposedly the charge (which is in state + $4K) completely covers this cost. If that is so, then certainly the amount of money that comes from the state is enough to make up the difference.

    Tuition should not be used as an adjustable parameter to make up the difference between what the administration wants from the state and what it gets.

    Nor should it be used for blackmail - give us the money or we'll raise tuition.

    Finally, the behavior of the President with respect to the upcoming balloon payment in tuition is disgraceful. He, of course, will be gone when this happens. And just as with the 27 paychecks problem, this administration knows a serious problem is coming and does nothing about it.

    Our horseman is headless.