By Josie Gereszek
Returning students may have noticed a steeper tuition bill than in years past.
The shift happened at the conclusion of Minnesota’s last legislative session. Throughout, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System advocated for a legislative allowance of $142 million systemwide, which would have entirely covered inflationary costs in the system’s budget and continued the system’s tuition freeze for another biennium, or two fiscal years.
When the legislature adjourned however, it had granted the system only $100 million of the request. MnSCU was accordingly allowed by its Board of Trustees and the legislature to increase tuition this academic year. The universities were not permitted to increase tuition more than $237, which, for Minnesota State University Moorhead students, equated to a 3.4 percent tuition increase. Meanwhile, the system’s two-year schools were mandated to have a 1 percent tuition decrease in the second year of this biennium.
Student Body President Sean Duckworth attributes the legislative action partially to the House of Representatives’ shift from DFL to GOP control, and a growing focus on Pre-K and K-12 education.
MSUM Vice President of Finance and Administration Jean Hollaar said that following the legislative decision, MSUM’s administration consulted with Student Senate’s finance sub-committee and the university’s employee labor unions to discuss the potential tuition increase.
“In that consultation, we had overwhelming support for the increase for this academic year,” Hollaar said. “We were glad there was an opportunity for a modest increase, being we didn’t get the full funding.”
Duckworth said when he and the Senate asked for student perspectives on the freeze in 2014, “a very large majority of them said that, as much as they wouldn’t want to pay more, they would tolerate it if it kept services and course offerings static,” particularly in light of cuts in previous years.
The legislative decision freezes tuition again in the second year of this biennium, so next academic year, students will not see another increase. Tuition however, isn’t the only cost which was inflated this year, as student fees were also hiked by 3 percent.
“The challenge we’ve been having in fee structure is that it’s largely driven by enrollment,” Hollaar said.
Because of MSUM’s decline in enrollment, fee-funded organizations and initiatives may be receiving less money than in previous years, despite having requested a larger percentage of funds. Students are only charged student fees throughout their first 12 credits.
“With the number of students declining, the number of students taking up to twelve credits declines, so the available revenue, even with the fee increase, faces a budget reduction,” Hollaar said.
August of 2017 will be the next time tuition could change again, determined by the outcome of 2017’s legislative session.