Part 1: College Tuition Costs on the Rise

By KBJR News 1

September 2, 2012 Updated Sep 2, 2012 at 11:42 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (Northland’s NewsCenter) --- Over the past ten years tuition has gone up a whopping 70 percent for UMD and other colleges of the University of Minnesota System.

University leaders blame the state pointing to the fact that the Minnesota Legislature has cut its support by hundreds of millions of dollars in a continual decline over the past decade.

Where Minnesota used to provide among the highest investment in its colleges its now among the lowest state in the country, falling into line with states like Alabama and Mississippi.

“I am already 25 thousand dollars in debt as a junior and that is beside what my parents have taken out for me,” Hanna Mumm, a UMD student said.

The obvious problem with shrinking state support for UMD, and the other University of Minnesota campuses, is continually rising tuition. This year tuition goes up another 3.5 percent.

“This is making higher education very unaffordable for most students and their families and its saddling them with enormous debt,” Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon said.

UMD leaders say students can no longer bear the burden of ever increasing tuition. The university has greatly reduced administrative costs, trimming wherever it can to lessen the tuition hikes but they say the impact on the quality of education is inevitable.

“There's only so far you can cut and still maintain the quality that we are committed to,” Dr. Lendley Black, UMD Chancellor said.

University leaders say the constant shortchanging of higher education by the state has put Minnesota in the embarrassing position of being among college systems not touted for their quality of education.

“I think we're finding ourselves in company we don't want to be in as we continue to disinvest,” David McMillian, Board of Regents of U of M said.

In 2008, the state contribution to UMD accounted for 38-percent of its budget. This year it accounts for just 19-percent.

“It is very difficult to sustain those kinds of cuts,” Dr. Black said. “And those are the primary drivers behind the increases in tuition.

But if you're not a student nor a parent how does this impact you? The answer is... right in the pocketbook.

Economists say UMD has an annual economic impact on the region of $374 million. In addition to that, over each of the past five years UMD has had a $153 million impact through campus construction projects. Add to that, 12,000 students and 1,700 employees, all spending money in the region.

“Every dollar that's invested in the University of Minnesota has a return of $13.20 on that investment,” Dr. Black said.

Already state lawmakers have said funding for new buildings on the UMD campus is highly unlikely given the current economy, and University spokespeople say if the state continues to cut financial support, enrollment will decline and layoffs will be inevitable. The impact of that is that the economy of our region will take a direct and substantial hit.

But funding the University System is about far more than educating students.

It's not exaggerating to say that almost every one of us makes money, every day, because of the University of Minnesota.

Written by: Barbara Reyelts