Is the Univ. of Minnesota spinning its accessibility record?

In a letter published in today’s Minnesota Daily (7/27/11), Provost Tom Sullivan writes that total financial aid has increased from $81 million in 2004 to $152 million in 2010. At first glance, this seems like a large improvement, increasing by 87.6 percent over 6 years. But while this statistic is technically true, it is intentionally deceptive.

Over this same period of time, tuition has risen 48 percent (by 69 percent if one starts counting from the 03-04 school year, but at least 48 percent). Furthermore, the size of the undergraduate student body has grown 6 percent during this period of time and inflation has gone up between 15 (beginning of 2010) and 19 percent (end of 2010). These three factors account for a large portion, if not all, of the increase in the total dollar amount of financial aid. The lack of context in Sullivan’s letter gives readers a false impression.

Minnesota Daily Editorials & Opinions Editor Eric Murphy and the editorial board, who claim that the university is overstating its progress in making the U financially more accessible to aspiring students.

(The editorial seems a bit harsh, but it’s an interesting little piece.)

You can read the full editorial here and Sullivan’s piece here.