Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Time to Renegotiate UW/UM Reciprocity

Every so often, you'll hear talk of the University of Minnesota system pulling out of its reciprocity agreement with the UW System. Now is one of those times.

The U of M's Board of Regents is getting set to vote on June 27 on whether to phase itself out of the reciprocity agreement. If it decides to start doing so in the fall of 2008, it would need to tell the UW of its plans by July 1 of this year.

The issue is that U of M tuition has grown faster than UW tuition in recent years. And since participants in the reciprocity agreement pay their home state tuition rates, this has resulted in Minnesota students paying slightly more than Wisconsin residents at UW schools -- the way it should be -- and Wisconsin students paying slightly less than Minnesota residents at U of M schools, which is understandably an issue for Minnesota.

I wasn't a big fan of U of M president Bob Bruininks when I was a grad student there a few years ago -- mostly because of the poor way in which he handled renegotiating a contract with clerical staff on campus, which resulted in a strike in 2003 -- but he did come up with a reasonable proposal for how to handle the reciprocity agreement with the UW.

Rather than simply paying home state tuition in all instances, reciprocity students would pay either their home state tuition or the resident tuition of the receiving campus, whichever was higher.

That way tuition for students from both states would remain at reasonable levels, and it would eliminate the need for compensatory payments from the UW to the U of M to cover the cost to tuition differences in the current set-up. And, if the UW wants (and the state approves), it could transfer these compensatory payments -- which amounted to $7.8 million last year -- into subsidizing the tuition costs of Wisconsin reciprocity students, thereby keeping those rates at roughly the cost of attending an in-state UW campus.

This route also has the added bonus of making sure the extra funds are going to U of M campuses via tuition, rather than into the Minnesota state general fund as the compensatory payments currently do. And, by going to the campuses rather than the general fund, the money could be used to reduce tuition levels, enhance educational offerings, or some of each.

In the end, it would be a fairer and, as a result, more sustainable arrangement than the one we currently have, and that's something that's beneficial to the systems and the families in both states.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took advantage of reciprocity while going to U of M Duluth. I always thought is was strange that I paid Wisconsin-level tuition at UMD. It would have been more fair if I simply paid Minnesota residence tuition. It would have been a little more, but I would have gladly paid it.

The agreement should continue if only for UMD's place as a regional university for Northeastern Minnesota and Northwestern Wisconsin. UMD's offerings dwarf UW-Superior making it a good option for Wisconsin students in the area.

June 06, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment, Sean. I agree the reciprocity agreement is probably even more valuable for those students in NW Wisconsin than other parts of the state. One quick look at a state map of the campuses shows the majority are focused in the SE, NE, and central parts of the state; and, aside from UW-Barron County and Superior, there's nothing in the northern part of the state.

Hopefully UW System administrators find a way to work out some sort of agreement -- the 27th is coming up quickly, and one of these days the U of M is going to add some bite to its bark on reciprocity.

June 06, 2007  
Blogger Erik Opsal said...

I think your point about the money going into the general fund is the real problem here. There's no reason that money shouldn't be going directly into the U of M system to cover the costs, as you said.

When we wrote our editorial at the Daily Cardinal, that's exactly what we said.

June 06, 2007  

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