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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Minnesota eyes reciprocity change

Tuition reciprocity between Wisconsin and Minnesota public universities may be at risk after Minnesota state legislators passed a bill forcing the state’s Higher Education Services Office to reevaluate and renegotiate a contract more favorable to Minnesotans. 

 

 

 

Doug Berg, a fiscal analyst for the Minnesota Legislature’s Higher Education Finance Commit-tee, said the current reciprocity agreement is disadvantageous to Minnesota students studying either in Wisconsin or Minnesota. 

 

 

 

“[One argument is] the fact that tuition at the Wisconsin campus is lower on an annual basis than the Minnesota,” Berg said. He added that Minnesota lowers its reciprocity rate to Wisconsin students to remain competitive, while the UW System charges a higher rate. 

 

 

 

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The other chief complaint legislators have, Berg said, is that at the end of the year, Minnesota owes money to Wisconsin to maintain the program. 

 

 

 

“Because of the volume transfer between the states, Minnesota has made a settling payment at the end of the year. The difference is paid by the state that owes the other. It’s supposed to be a zero-sum game,” Berg said. “There were 12,733 Minnesota students in Wisconsin and 9,559 Wisconsin students in Minnesota in fall 1999.” 

 

 

 

Minnesota state Rep. Joe Opatz, D-St. Cloud, who introduced the bill, said that enrollment difference costs Minnesota approximately $5 million a year and the loss of future workers. 

 

 

 

“There’s a high probability you will stay in the state from which you receive your degree,” Opatz said, adding that the contract between the two states had not been renegotiated recently. “We’ve directed HESO to renegotiate so that Minnesota gets a better deal.” 

 

 

 

Berg said the primary goal of the legislation is to reduce Minnesota’s reciprocity maintenance payment. 

 

 

 

“It doesn’t directly address the amount of tuition an individual student pays anymore,” he said of the bill that initially called for the elimination of the tuition reciprocity agreement. “[It] just reduces the interstate payment.” 

 

 

 

The bill’s co-sponsor, Minnesota state Rep. Doug Stang, R-Cold Spring, said the bill will have little, if any, effect on student tuition rates for the coming year. 

 

 

 

“We gave [HESO] the ability to look at these contracts, make recommendations, and basically redo them. If these agreements aren’t more favorable to Minnesota, you may see the Legislature step in,” he said. “There’s some incentive on both sides to work out a better agreement.” 

 

 

 

Any changes to the reciprocity agreement will also have to go through a negotiating agency appointed by the Wisconsin Legislature and meet approval by both states’ representatives. 

 

 

 

While Opatz eventually envisions public university systems with a uniform tuition rate for in-state and out-of-state students, he said it is unlikely that reciprocity will be eliminated in the near future. 

 

 

 

Stang also said he hopes the Minnesota Legislature plays a minimal role in the changes he would like to see for the reciprocity agreement’s future. 

 

 

 

“I don’t think the Minnesota Legislature will enact on universities,” Stang said. “Maybe the systems will make changes themselves.”

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