What it costs for UMN to educate a student

The University of Minnesota is taking its first full look at what it costs to educate a student.

U officials say their study, discussed at Thursday's Board of Regents meeting, represents the first comprehensive estimate of what the U spends on instruction for both undergraduate and graduate/professional education.

Here's the system-wide average of what the UMN spends to instruct one student for various levels of education. Figures are based on the 2009-10 year, and most of them come from pages 17-21 of the report:

Undergraduate: $12,055 a year

Graduate: $23,454

Professional: $39,022

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U finance officials discussed some of the highlights for undergraduate education:

Most expensive college: Carlson School of Management ($16,049). U officials say that's because faculty pay must be competitive with the private sector.

Least expensive college: Education & Human Development ($9,625). The college holds a lot of physical education courses, which U officials say are fairly inexpensive.

Most expensive campus: Morris ($16,273). Lincoln Kallsen, director of financial research for the university, says the campus has a low student-to-faculty ratio, which is expensive.

Kallsen said, "They are providing a very high-quality liberal arts education, much the same as a Carleton or a Macalester."

U spokesman Chuck Tombarge said the Twin Cities campus had a weighted average cost of $12,167 -- slightly above average. The other campuses were in the $11,000 range.

One surprise for U officials was the relatively low cost of a degree from the College of Science and Engineering, which spends less than $11,000 annually per student.

Kallsen said that college saves money by offering a more limited curriculum.

"If you're educating an engineer," he said,"they have a more lockstep curriculum than perhaps a student in the liberal arts, which has a wider variety of courses to choose from. And that is an inherently more efficient instructional model."

Kallsen also highlighted the cost benefits of courses -- such as Introduction to Chemistry -- that can efficiently serve students from a wide variety of majors.

Kallsen said he was surprised by the wide range of costs at the graduate and professional levels.

Dentistry was the most expensive degree at $52,521. Public affairs was the cheapest at just under $14,000.

University finance officials cautioned not to judge a college or campus by the findings. Being expensive, they said, isn't good or bad.

But Kallsen did say that the U can use the findings to help the U become more efficient.

University officials also warned not to use the numbers for direct comparisons. Other universities measure costs differently. And because this is the first year that the U has made these calculations, they aren't comparable to any done in the past.

They did want this comparison, however: The cost of educating a student vs. what the U charged for tuition.

Crookston charged the least, at $8,588 a year. The Twin Cities campus charged $10,320, and the Duluth and Morris campuses charged $10,030.

(Note: An earlier version incorrectly listed the name of the lowest-cost college.)