University of Minnesota Board of Regents to recommend tuition increases

Published: Jun. 9, 2023 at 9:00 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - If you’re planning to go to the University of Minnesota this fall, you should expect a tuition increase.

“I want a thorough analysis of all the investments that we made,” said Rep. Gene Pelowski who chairs the Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee.

The news also comes at the end of a two-day Board of Regents meeting that also marks the end of an era for President Joan Gabel who took the job in 2019.

“To be a part of the ongoing legacy of the University is very meaningful to me,” said Gabel.

She’s leaving for the University of Pittsburgh, but not before providing updates on declining enrollment and tuition costs at the U that have garnered criticism during her tenure, at times, from Rep. Pelowski.

“Tuition is one of the problems that we’ve had in declining enrollment across all of higher education,” said Rep. Pelowski. “We’ve simply priced everybody out.”

Pelowski had pushed the school for new data back in March after leaders revised its budget, asking for another $50 million to compensate for fewer students. The legislature eventually approved $192 million in new funding this session.

Pelowski now planning to hold hearings starting in October to oversee the school’s spending.

“It will be an account by account look, a budget approach, to how our investments are being used and then what changes will we need to make in 2024,” said Rep. Pelowski. “We’re going to grab them by the budgets and we’re not going to let go.”

Schools across the country are struggling with enrollment drops.

The new data Rep. Pelowski requested shows enrollment fell in the last decade at three of the five campuses. The Morris campus is facing the largest drop at 44.5%. Duluth fell 16.1% and Crookston fell 17.9%.

The Twin Cities is growing, but by only 1%, leading to a huge financial loss that, according to the UMN, is $24 million this year alone.

“These people are not a bank,” said Rep. Pelowski. “When we raise tuition, it’s just like taxing someone.”

The sentiment was shared by faculty and students, several of whom spoke out at this week’s board meeting.

“I am deeply concerned with the way this board of regents chooses to spend money,” said Patrick, a graduate student.

The U countered and says that the Twin Cities’ freshman class increased by more than 1,000 students and they carry the fifth lowest debt in the Big 10.

Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education Robert McMaster also spoke at the meeting and said tuition increases have been low in the last decade, staying around 1.6%.

“That’s significantly under the inflation rate and in three of those 10 years, tuition increase was zero,” said McMaster.

Still, the board’s latest budget proposals also include pay raises and room and board increases. Rep. Pelowski says higher ed has to review the way it’s crafting its budget.

The Board of Regents will officially vote on its full operating budget on June 26. In the meantime, the U’s new interim president takes over. Jeff Ettinger was the CEO at Hormel Foods and starts work on June 10.