U of M students could see tuition hike next year after $24M shortfall

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Students at the University of Minnesota could see a tuition hike next year.

The university’s budget director told state lawmakers Thursday that enrollment for 2023 is not meeting expectations, leaving the school behind on its budget.

“This year, our forecast showed a $24 million shortfall,” said Julie Tonneson, budget director for the University of Minnesota.

Tonneson gave a presentation to state representatives in the Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee Thursday morning, as part of a push to secure extra state funding.

Representatives pressed Tonneson for more details on the multi-million dollar request.

“What are you doing at the University of Minnesota to figure out why this is happening?” said Rep. Peggy Scott(R-Andover).

Tonneson called 2023 an ‘anomaly,’ saying the freshman class on the Twin Cities campus is the largest in at least 30 years but overall the university is failing to retain students.

“The retention has decreased from freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior,” Tonneson said. “The students aren’t required to tell us why they leave but, anecdotally, what we’re hearing is a lot of it has to do with challenges related to the pandemic, income, could be family income, health issues, child care.”

Parents of university students, including Erin Brumm, said university officials failed to mention crime near campus as a possible factor.

Brumm is a founding member of the Campus Safety Coalition, a non-profit that launched last summer, made up of parents, professors, students and alumni.

“Some parents who have reached out to us have pulled their students out of the University of Minnesota because they don’t believe it to be a safe environment,” Brumm said. “It has nothing to do with professors, with the classes, anything like that. Their experience with the U has been great but they’re afraid for their lives, so they’re pulling their kids out and sending them to what they deem to be safer schools. That is happening and no one is talking about that.”

5 EYEWITNESS News has covered concerns about the uptick in crime near campus.

The university has been working on safety upgrades this school year.

Brumm, whose son is a junior, said she is encouraged to see new partnerships between the city, university and police department, but believes more needs to be done in order to boost safety and retain students.

“What concerns me is that safety is never on the forefront of any of these conversations,” Brumm said.

In Thursday’s committee meeting, Tonneson noted the budget shortfall could lead to tuition increases for students if state lawmakers decide not to provide additional funding to the university.

On the Twin Cities campus, a tuition increase could go as high as 7.5% for 2024.

For other campuses across the state, tuition hikes would likely top out at 4%.

However, Tonneson said if lawmakers decide to fully grant the university’s request, students would see no tuition increases next year.

Parents like Brumm are frustrated by the possibility of tuition hikes.

“These numbers are getting larger and larger. And what experience is that buying our students? If you’re going to raise our tuition 7%, where are we going to see that? Are we going to see a safer campus? Are we going to see more initiatives our students can be a part of?” Brumm said.

Students also worry tuition hikes could lead to future declines in enrollment and retention.

“It’s already upsetting how much students have to pay now and it makes me worry about enrollment of future students,” said sophomore Mike Johnson.

The university said, regardless of happens with tuition, there will be budget cuts next year.

Tonneson could not provide any specifics about which campuses, departments or programs will see cuts.

Lawmakers will meet next Tuesday to consider the school’s budget bill.