Minnesota State colleges, universities raise tuition 3.5% for nearly all students

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Students at nearly all of the 26 Minnesota State colleges and seven universities will pay 3.5 percent more for tuition next year under a $2.1 billion budget approved Wednesday by the system’s Board of Trustees.

The average cost of tuition will go up by $181 next year for two-year college students and $294 for university students. However, increased state grants will more than offset those costs for low-income college students.

“I know students are getting squeezed,” Roger Moe, who chairs the board’s finance committee, said of the tuition increases. “It’s not something we want to do.”

The Legislature capped each school’s tuition increase at 3.5 percent. Two are charging less: Normandale Community College will stop at 2 percent, and the six-campus Minnesota State Community and Technical College is charging 3 percent more.

Two universities are raising their base rates an additional amount to get rid of surcharges for online courses.

At St. Cloud State University, online classes will cost 6.1 percent less and on-campus classes 11.8 percent more. At Southwest Minnesota State University, students will pay 9 percent less for online courses and 6.1 percent more in-person.

Those changes should be revenue-neutral for the universities.

Axel Kylander, president of LeadMN, the advocacy group for college students, said the tuition increase will drive away students.

Trustees said they have little choice given their rising costs and declining tuition; the system is projecting a 2.2 percent enrollment decline next year after drops of 6.8 percent last year and 5.4 percent the year before.

“I do feel your pain,” trustee George Soule said, suggesting students take their complaints to the Legislature, which sent no additional money to colleges this year despite an unprecedented state budget surplus.

The system had asked lawmakers for enough state funds to negate the need to raise tuition.

Oballa Oballa was the only trustee who spoke against the budget and tuition hikes, saying they would further hurt enrollment. He voted against the budget during the finance committee meeting Wednesday but was absent for the full board vote.

The system has watched enrollment fall each of the last 10 years.

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