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U of M Regents want alternatives to 3 percent tuition increase, possibly freeze

MINNEAPOLIS—University of Minnesota undergraduates should expect a tuition increase this fall but members of the Board of Regents disagree over how high.

President Eric Kaler is proposing a 3 percent increase, or $376 per year, for Minnesota residents at the Twin Cities campus, and 10 percent for nonresidents.

Regents generally are on board with a big nonresident increase but are considering alternatives for resident students — anywhere from a tuition freeze to a 2.5 percent increase.

Regents Ken Powell and Steve Sviggum, who were elected earlier this year by the Republican-led Legislature, are among those pushing for cheaper tuition.

Sviggum said he would propose a two-year tuition freeze with more modest salary increases for employees, when regents meet again June 20.

"I think we can address this budget by looking at attrition, by reducing some of our head count," he said during a budget discussion Thursday.

Powell said he'd be uncomfortable raising tuition faster than the rate of inflation.

The U has held tuition down in recent years, with average annual increases of 1.4 percent over the past five years. The 3 percent increase is needed, Kaler said, because the Legislature didn't allocate enough money.

His budget proposal includes 1 percent tuition increases for Minnesotans at the university's four other campuses. Nonresidents at Duluth face a 5.5 percent increase.

Regent Linda Cohen said the low tuition increases in recent years have been "remarkable," making the state's flagship university more accessible to state residents.

Thomas Anderson said regents and Kaler have done a good job responding to the cost pressures on middle-class families.

"I think there is a new vision on this board and on this campus" about controlling costs, he said.

Kaler's recommended 10 percent increase in nonresident Twin Cities tuition could grow in the next two weeks. That rate ranks 13th of the 14 Big Ten schools, and some regents think they could get away with more aggressive increases without hurting enrollment.

Fewer nonresidents have applied to the U amid big tuition hikes the last few years, but nonresident enrollment actually has increased.

"Unfortunately, people associate quality with the price tag," said regent Michael Hsu.