U of M freezes tuition for most students next year

A brown-haired woman speaks at a podium.
University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel delivers her inaugural address at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in September 2019. Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout, University of Minnesota regents voted unanimously to not raise tuition for the 2020-21 academic year.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2019

The University of Minnesota Board of Regents on Tuesday approved a tuition freeze for most students in the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a meeting convened online and broadcast on the university’s YouTube channel, President Joan Gabel told the board that the tuition freeze needed to be addressed before the May 1 deadline for students to commit to attending the university. 

“It’s a recognition of the challenge that students are facing. It’s a recognition of the competitive landscape,” Gabel said. “The reason we are proposing it is because we believe it’s the right thing to do.” 

The tuition freeze will go into effect on all the university’s campuses, but does not apply to students in medical, dentistry or some professional masters programs in the College of Science and Engineering.

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The freeze was approved unanimously by the 12-member board. But regent Michael Hsu urged officials to consider deeper cuts to tuition in order to retain students. 

“I know some kids are thriving with online classes, but some of them don’t like it,” Hsu said. “There are students that are unhappy with having to go online because that’s not what they were sold on originally.”

Regents last year approved a 2 percent tuition hike for in-state undergraduates. 

Students enrolled in courses over the summer will attend class online. But university officials also outlined contingency plans during the regents meeting for eventually returning to a more normal classroom experience. The school’s plans include envisioning a scenario where students would be able return to classes next fall online and then be phased back into face-to-face instruction over the academic year. 

Gabel said the goal is to transition to a daily functioning that allows students and staff to safely practice social distancing in classrooms, dining halls and dorms.

The university is also taking other cost-saving measures, including voluntary reductions in salary by Gabel and her cabinet. About 200 other senior leaders will also contribute five days of unpaid work. Gabel estimates that the cost-saving measures could reduce the university’s costs by between $40 million and $50 million. 

Officials also estimate that the university will be eligible for $36 million in financial support from the federal CARES Act, about half of which will be direct support to students.