Instead of penalizing Wisconsin students, look to U, fiscal shell game

Since 1968, a reciprocity agreement has enabled Minnesota college students to attend Wisconsin schools at Minnesota in-state tuition rates, and Wisconsin students to attend schools in the Gopher State at their home state's in-state tuition rates. While tuition rates stayed fairly close to each other, the agreement gave students in the two states a greater variety of schools from which to choose, without paying the full non-resident tuition.

In 2000, the University of Minnesota charged $4877 in tuition for a 15 credit hours semester; in Wisconsin the fee was $3791 — a difference of $1673. By 2006, tuition at the U of M had jumped 88%, to $9173; meanwhile, Wisconsin's tuition rose "only" 78%, to $6730 — a $2443 premium, giving a whole new meaning to the moniker "Golden Gophers."

(The average increase between 2000 and 2006 among all Big Ten public universities was 79%, skyrocketing across the Big Ten.)

Given the disparity, some Minnesota lawmakers have called for Wisconsin students to join their Gopher peers in paying Minnesota in-state tuition. Never mind that under the reciprocity agreement, the state of Wisconsin reimburses the state of Minnesota for the difference — except this money goes into the general fund, not to Minnesota's colleges and universities!

If the Minnesota Legislature truly had the interests of Minnesota and Wisconsin undergraduate students ahead of the other interests begging for public money, it would:

  1. Send Wisconsin funds from the reciprocity agreement ($6.5 million last year) to Minnesota colleges and universities, rather than the general fund

  2. Allow market forces to pressure the Minnesota's colleges and universities to keep its costs more in line with Wisconsin's and Iowa's, rather than Illinois's and Michigan's
The data behind the graph is here.