MnSCU students face 3.9 percent tuition hike

MnSCU's offices in St. Paul
The offices of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in St. Paul.
MPR Photo/Tim Post

Students who attend Minnesota's state colleges and universities could face an average tuition increase of 3.9 percent this next academic year. The MnSCU's Board of Trustees discussed the proposed hikes today as part of its review of the next budget.

The past decade has seen tuition increases ranging from 2.2 percent to almost 14 percent. Compared to previous increases, these hikes are below the average.

Full-time students attending two-year colleges would pay an additional $171 annually, for a total tuition of about $4,800 a year. Those at four-year universities would pay another $285 a year, for a total of just under $6,800.

It is part of a $2 billion budget that MnSCU officials say eliminates or scales back almost 500 programs and 525 positions.

Student leaders say they are fairly happy that the increases were not higher. The state legislature said tuition at community and technical colleges could rise no more than 4 percent this coming year.

When this year's increase turned out to be less than that, student leader Geoff Dittberner was pleased. But he notes that two-year tuition is still among the nation's highest. As recently as two years ago, MnSCU's two-year schools were ranked third-most expensive in the nation on average in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"It's something we're taking notice and we're keeping an eye on. We're happy that it came below the cap, but we still will have ongoing conversations about how we can make tuition more predictable in the future," Dittberner said.

It's unclear how the budget will affect faculty pay. They're still negotiating contracts with the system. The state needs to fund higher education more if faculty and students are to ever see real relief, says union leader Greg Mulcahy.

"We're sympathetic that the students are facing these outrageous tuition increases. But oftentimes that gets blamed on faculty salaries and benefits, and that's not the cause," Mulcahy said. "Faculty wages have been eroding for the last 10 years, and we haven't had an increase in four years."

Trustees are expected to approve the increases next month.

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