The Price of Leaving Home

The U’s proposed tuition increase targets out-of-state students

The topic of the March 29 University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting was frightening—the proposed tuition increase for non-reciprocity, out-of-state students.

President Kaler started off the meeting by addressing a few of the University’s top-priority concerns such as mental health advocacy, diversity outreach and support (or lack thereof), and last but certainly not least, the controversial non-reciprocity, out-of-state tuition increase.

tuition

Illustrator: Kellen Renstrom

The student representatives for the Board of Regents spoke next, expressing the student body’s concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the recent tuition increase proposal. They pointed out that the number one priority for prospective students from other states and countries is affordability. With this in mind, many current University students are deeply concerned that the proposed tuition increase will discourage a diverse applicant pool of students for years to come.

According to our Office of Institutional Research, the University’s current population of students of color sits at a low 17 percent, and its international student body is a dismal 10.6 percent. If the University is looking to grow as a robust, innovative, and diverse Big Ten university, raising non-reciprocity, out-of-state tuition will only undermine their efforts. The repercussions of a swift and significant increase in tuition could deem catastrophic for the students that need the most support on campus: the multicultural and international communities.

The Board of Regents assured that retaining, encouraging, and harboring a diverse campus here in the Twin Cities is a top priority for them. However, if they implement a tuition increase that has the potential to severely hinder the University’s diversification efforts, their well-intentioned implementation will have been counteractive.

The Board reported that 65 percent of the University’s student body consists of Minnesota residents, but in the eyes of some regents, that number is far too low.

Regent Michael Hsu even went so far as to say that he “wouldn’t mind seeing that number increase to 70 or even 80 percent of Minnesotan students here on campus.”

The phrase “We must remember that we are in the business of educating Minnesotan students” was thrown around quite a bit throughout the meeting. While it’s a true statement, it’s also problematic. It inadvertently implies that a student’s birthplace can potentially hold more value than his or her academic merit, a dangerously close-minded approach to collegiate education.

The Board of Regents also talked of their goals in building the “University of Minnesota brand” into a more academically prestigious and selective household name.

If the U wants to develop into a powerhouse state school, they’ll need to do away with the ideology that increasing its amount of international and out-of-state students is an act of disloyalty to Minnesota and its residents.

However, if the University of Minnesota wants to develop into a powerhouse state school, similar to the likes of the University of Michigan, they’ll need to do away with the ideology that increasing its amount of international and out-of-state students is an act of disloyalty to Minnesota and its residents. Non-resident students bring valuable perspectives and cultures that add an unparalleled layer of depth and diversity to a campus. Increasing their tuition will only narrow the University’s national and global outreach and hinder its potential for growth.

After a morning’s worth of stalemate debate among administration, the Board of Regents concluded that while the proposal was imperfect, it could be tweaked overtime. The motion to implement an increase in non-reciprocity, out-of-state tuition prevailed with an overwhelming sense of “we’ll take what we can get.”

There is no telling how this tuition increase will affect diversity on campus for the years to come, but the institution is already experiencing some repercussions. The University of Minnesota provost reported that letters from concerned parents have been pouring in, and the University has already seen an 8 percent decrease in enrollment confirmations this year.

But as one regent bluntly remarked, “In business when you raise a price, you can expect a lower demand.”

The trouble is that for many young adults willing to leave home for a quality education, the rising tuition rates are far more complex than a clean-cut business analysis of supply and demand. Unfortunately, for an exponentially growing number of students across the globe, their educational aspirations can only stretch as far as their wallets.

The price of leaving home has grown far too steep.