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Minnesota State colleges poised to increase tuition as enrollment slide continues

17 May 2022

Colleges and universities in the Minnesota State system are poised to raise their tuition by 3.5% next academic year even as their enrollments are expected to continue declining.

Students attending Minnesota State’s 30 community and technical colleges would see an average increase of $185, while those enrolled at the system’s seven universities would pay nearly $300 more, administrators said Tuesday. The tuition hike, if approved by Minnesota State’s board of trustees next month, would be the system’s third consecutive price increase.

The colleges and universities raised their price by 3% in spring 2021 and about 3.4% in fall 2021. Tuition currently averages $8,900 at Minnesota State’s universities and $5,700 at its community and technical colleges.

“We are hoping … that enrollment will eventually stabilize in fiscal years 2023 and 2024,” Bill Maki, Minnesota State’s vice chancellor for finance and facilities, told the board of trustees Tuesday.

The University of Minnesota is also mulling a 3.5% tuition increase at its Twin Cities campus.

Minnesota State’s proposed 3.5% increase likely won’t produce enough revenue to bring its budget out of the red, as its systemwide enrollment for this fall is down 4% from where it was this time last year.

The system’s enrollment woes have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, losing 12% of its students over the past two years. Since 2010, its systemwide enrollment has decreased by a quarter, from nearly 200,000 students to just under 150,000.

During the pandemic, Minnesota State schools were able to cover their revenue losses with the help of funding from the three federal stimulus packages passed by Congress. The college system received about $600 million in total, about half of which it was required to distribute as financial aid to students. Most of that money has been used by now, Maki said.

“That funding will no longer be available,” Maki said. “For some colleges and universities, it’s provided a safety net that will no longer be there to cover some of their ongoing costs.”

College and university leaders said revenue from the proposed tuition increase is needed to help fill that void and offset inflation, which has driven up their operating costs.

Without the extra tuition revenue, Winona State University President Scott Olson said his school would have to consider cutting programs or services.

Joe Mulford, president of Pine Technical and Community College in Pine City, said technical colleges need the money to help pay for machines and supplies that have become increasingly expensive due to inflation.

“Machines cost more than they probably ever have,” Mulford said.

Room and board fees are also projected to increase by an average of about $340 at the six universities and one community college that offer student housing, Maki said.

Minnesota State asked the Legislature for $25 million to fund a tuition freeze, but neither the House’s nor the Senate’s most recent higher education proposals included funding for it.

“To this point, that $25 million has not received any support, which is putting our colleges and universities in a position to seek that 3.5% tuition increase,” Maki said.

The board of trustees will vote on the system’s fiscal year 2023 budget, including the tuition increase, in June.

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