Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuition freeze?

Senator John Carlson, a member of the Senate Committee on Higher Ed, has introduced legislation calling for a temporary tuition freeze and permanent limitations on tuition increases at UM and MNSCU. The first committee hearing on the bill is Wednesday, February 16. Carlson argues that the bill would force higher ed systems "to make true structural reform to push revenue into the classrooms and reduce administrative overhead."

President Bruininks opposes the bill.

The bill has some limitations, but it has the potential to open up a fruitful discussion with legislators about some fundamental problems at the U. Without strong outside pressure, university administrators are unlikely to shift money from administration to instruction. They will also continue to be duplicitous about how tuition is being used to subsidize the expansion of expensive scientific research. Note: this is not an anti-science or anti-research tirade--research is a cornerstone of what we do. But there's no denying that the U has continued to make big investments in science even when facing brutal budget cuts. Administrators are counting on federal grants to fill the flashy new buildings with brilliant scientists at a time when federal grants are becoming harder to get. The grants don't cover the full cost of the research, meaning that the money to cover the rest of it has to come from somewhere. Expanding scientific research therefore means increasing cross-subsidies from other parts of the university. Perhaps this bill will prompt an honest conversation of what it costs to educate students and the true costs of research.

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