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Proposed 15 percent U of M nonresident tuition hike gets mixed reception

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler. Pioneer Press / Jean Pieri

MINNEAPOLIS — A proposed 15 percent spike in tuition charged to nonresidents got a mixed reception Thursday, Oct. 12, from the University of Minnesota Board of Regents.

President Eric Kaler said his proposal for back-to-back 15 percent increases the next two years would put the U in the middle of the Big Ten for nonresident tuition. If approved, he said, the U would remain a "great value."

The plan would generate an estimated $10 million a year, but the university would spend $1.5 million of that on additional recruiters and tuition discounts.

Some regents are on board with the proposal, but others question whether enrollment will suffer if the university no longer can appeal to bargain shoppers.

Regent Patricia Simmons said she'd like to charge more but not if it ends up hurting the U's academic profile, which has gotten a boost from the low-tuition strategy implemented in fall 2008.

Regent David McMillan said he's a cautious supporter of the proposal. He said the U needs to recruit nonresidents to boost diversity and to make up for demographic trends that are leaving the state with too few talented workers.

Apoorva Malarvannan, a non-voting student regent, said nonresidents make the U more diverse and vibrant, and such an increase "would harm the future dynamism of this institution."

Kaler wants regents to act on the plan in December to give prospective students plenty of notice before they decide where to enroll.

"The unknown's worse than the known," Chief Financial Officer Brian Burnett said.

After a 12.5 percent nonresident price increase was approved in June, U recruiters scrambled to make more scholarship offers to hit their fall 2017 enrollment target.

Regents on Thursday did not discuss where they might set tuition for Minnesota residents. Twin Cities tuition this year is $12,800 for residents and $24,986 for nonresidents.

Nonresidents who enrolled at the U in 2015 or 2016 have their annual tuition increases capped at 5.5 percent. Regents did not make the same promise to this year's freshmen and have not discussed a cap for next year's incoming class.

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