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Minnesota threatens to end reciprocity

February 22, 2007

The University of Minnesota (U of M) System is threatening to end a longstanding tuition pact with Wisconsin after realizing how many millions of dollars were lost in tuition.

The U of M will continue the pact as long as Wisconsin students pay more to attend Minnesota schools.

Without the agreement between the states, tuition would soar for students who attend schools across the border.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin officials agree they don’t want it to come to that.

Senior Megan Sohns said she came to UWRF because of the reciprocity agreement.

“The big deciding factor for me coming to this University was cost,” Sohns said. “So, if it had been more expensive, I probably would have chosen a different university.”

Sohns also said she was happy to be graduating.

“I think the issue really stinks, but it makes sense at the same time,” she said.

At UW-River Falls, Wisconsin residents pay an estimated $2,864 per semester, while Minnesota residents pay an estimated $3,160, according to Enrollment Services.

Student Senate President Joe Eggers said the Student Senate fully supports tuition reciprocity.

“Without it, nearly half of the students who attend RF would be paying thousands of dollars more for the same education,” Eggers said. “Reciprocity is integral to maintaining an affordable option for college for many students on both sides of the border.”

Eggers also said the setup of reciprocity is flawed.

“Wisconsin students have a lower tuition rate on both sides of the border,” he said. “Because of this, Minnesota is looking to end its side of the bargain. It would be far more beneficial to students from both sides if an agreement which addressed the concerns over reciprocity were addressed and an equal deal was met.”

Eggers said the Student Senate passed a motion pledging support for reciprocity and has been added as one of its main priorities for the rest of the semester. Eggers said they plan to work with legislators in Minnesota and Wisconsin and a campaign will arise when they have more information.

“Until we find out more what Minnesota is considering, there is little that can be done,” he said.

Jenifer Biss, legislative chair of the Student Senate, said it is quite clear why the Student Senate is in favor of a continued reciprocity agreement between Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“It is important to Minnesota and its students that tuition not skyrocket to the out-of-state rate because such an increase would simply be unmanageable,” Biss said. “As for the state of Wisconsin, it is not realistic for them to compromise the interests of such a large population of their student body, especially at a time when the state intends to increase enrollment in the UW System.”

The reciprocity agreement between the states has kept tuition affordable for students in both states since 1968. Last year, about 12,000 students from Wisconsin came to Minnesota for college, while about 14,000 from Minnesota headed east.

Wisconsin residents attending the U of M-Twin Cities, pay $8,219 a year, $1,191 less than the tuition paid by Minnesota residents. On the U of M-Morris campus, Wisconsin residents pay $7,592, $2,720 less than students from Minnesota.

Wisconsin State Senator Sheila Harsdorf said the fact that Minnesota is threatening to end the program is short-sighted.

“Ending the program would not only limit access, but students of both states would be faced with thousands of dollars in higher education costs,” Harsdorf said.

Harsdorf said it is important to note that Minnesota is getting compensated for the difference in tuition levels.

“What does not make sense is for Wisconsin to be strong-armed into raising tuition for our residents or penalized for keeping ours lower,” she said.

The states compensate each other for costs connected to the deal. However, that money goes to the state’s general fund, not directly to the universities. Last year, Wisconsin’s compensation totaled $6.5 million.

Wisconsin officials said they are not the ones to blame for the tuition skyrocketing in Minnesota, while Wisconsin rates stayed in check. Six years of U of M tuition hikes caused Wisconsin students at the Twin Cities campus to pay $1,200 a year less in tuition than Minnesota residents.

The bottom line is the current deal costs them more than $6 million a year in lost tuition, according to U of M officials.

Officials from both states plan to meet by the end of February to further discuss the agreement.

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