Minnesota lawmakers may jump into tuition dispute with Wisconsinby Art Hughes, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota lawmakers might insert themselves into a dispute over a tuition reciprocity agreement that has some Wisconsin students paying less to attend Minnesota universities than their home-state classmates.
St. Paul, Minn. — A bill that would end tuition discrepancies between Minnesota and Wisconsin students got a hearing before a legislative committee Wednesday.
The legislation aims to alter the current reciprocity agreement between the two states that makes it possible for some Wisconsin students to pay less at the University of Minnesota than Minnesota students pay. Duluth Representative Tom Huntley introduced the bill.
"Kids coming from Wisconsin will have to pay the same tuition as Minnesota kids do at the University of Minnesota," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Tom Huntley of Duluth. "It's phased in over two years."
The current agreement allows students to carry tuition rates from their home institution across state lines. Wisconsin students can pay up to $2,000 less than their Minnesota classmates.
Talks between Minnesota and Wisconsin officials could make the bill moot, said Susan Heegaard, director of the state Office of Higher Education. Heegaard said the goal is to keep the reciprocity agreement while improving the terms for Minnesota institutions.
"We hope to have this thing wrapped up by February," Heegaard said.
University of Minnesota research analyst Peter Zetterberg told the committee the agreement has evolved to favor Wisconsin students.
"The difference between what Wisconsin reciprocity students pay and Minnesota residents pay to attend any one of our four campuses is simply grown to a point where it is ridiculous. We don't believe it's a situation any other state would tolerate," said Zetterberg.
He said the university doesn't want Wisconsin students to pay more than their Minnesota counterparts, just the same amount.
Last year about 12,000 Wisconsinites came to Minnesota for college, while about 14,000 Minnesotans headed east.
The states compensate each other for costs connected to the deal, with Wisconsin making a $6.5 million payment to Minnesota last year. But that money goes to the state's general fund, not directly to the university.
Wisconsin officials said it's not their fault that tuition skyrocketed in Minnesota while Wisconsin rates stayed in check.
But University of Minnesota officials said the bottom line is the current deal now costs them more than $6 million a year in lost tuition.
The committee didn't vote on Huntley's proposal, but will consider including it in a larger bill later this session.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)